Top News

Benefit planned for 11-year-old Greenwood girl with cancer


GREENWOOD SQUARE - At just 11 years old, Karissa Bezanson is fighting a most formidable foe – leukemia.

Shannon Hohmann, a single mother living in Greenwood Square, comforts her 11-year-old daughter, Karissa Bezanson. Karissa was diagnosed with leukemia in November.

“She endures more than what most adults do and, most times, has got a smile on her face,” says Karissa’s mother, Shannon Hohmann.  

Hohmann, a single mother, vividly remembers the day – Nov. 3, 2016 to be exact – she rushed Karissa to the Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville because something seemed off.

“Karissa got hit in the face with a hockey ball and it was blood clots instead of a nose bleed, so I took her to outpatients,” she recalls.

The seven-hour wait to see a doctor was straining, but nothing compared to the hours that followed. Less than an hour after the consult with a doctor, Karissa was in the back of an ambulance en route to the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.

“On the way in the ambulance her nose started bleeding again… she had to have transfusions as soon as we got there,” says Hohmann.

The heart-wrenching diagnosis – two strains of leukemia – came as a complete shock.

“Karissa was a very healthy child before. She’s only ever had three ear infections in her whole life and then, all of a sudden, one day she has leukemia.”

 ‘Quite a character’

Hindsight being 20-20, Hohmann now points to fatigue and frequent bruising on Karissa’s legs as potential signs. But it was easy to assume Karissa’s bruises were from sports, riding her dirtbike or just spending hours upon hours enjoying the outdoors – all things she loves to do.

“She’s quite a character. She’s one of a kind. She’s always outdoors playing, never in the house,” says Hohmann.

“All she wanted for Christmas was a hockey net and a hockey stick so she could go outside and play.”

Both Hohmann and Karissa have redirected their focus to treatments following the cancer diagnosis. Karissa is in the process of receiving four chemotherapy treatments a week, mostly out of Halifax unless Valley Regional Hospital is able to help out.  

The Pine Ridge Middle School student will be homeschooled for as long as necessary and Hohmann has taken a leave of absence from work for a year to concentrate on her daughter.

“She’s doing pretty good. Most days her spirits are up but she doesn’t understand some days why she has to go through it.”

The treatment days are long, the travel and medications are costly, but Hohmann says doctors believe there is a 90 per cent chance of remission.

 

“She endures more than what most adults do and, most times, has got a smile on her face,” says Karissa’s mother, Shannon Hohmann.  

Hohmann, a single mother, vividly remembers the day – Nov. 3, 2016 to be exact – she rushed Karissa to the Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville because something seemed off.

“Karissa got hit in the face with a hockey ball and it was blood clots instead of a nose bleed, so I took her to outpatients,” she recalls.

The seven-hour wait to see a doctor was straining, but nothing compared to the hours that followed. Less than an hour after the consult with a doctor, Karissa was in the back of an ambulance en route to the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.

“On the way in the ambulance her nose started bleeding again… she had to have transfusions as soon as we got there,” says Hohmann.

The heart-wrenching diagnosis – two strains of leukemia – came as a complete shock.

“Karissa was a very healthy child before. She’s only ever had three ear infections in her whole life and then, all of a sudden, one day she has leukemia.”

 ‘Quite a character’

Hindsight being 20-20, Hohmann now points to fatigue and frequent bruising on Karissa’s legs as potential signs. But it was easy to assume Karissa’s bruises were from sports, riding her dirtbike or just spending hours upon hours enjoying the outdoors – all things she loves to do.

“She’s quite a character. She’s one of a kind. She’s always outdoors playing, never in the house,” says Hohmann.

“All she wanted for Christmas was a hockey net and a hockey stick so she could go outside and play.”

Both Hohmann and Karissa have redirected their focus to treatments following the cancer diagnosis. Karissa is in the process of receiving four chemotherapy treatments a week, mostly out of Halifax unless Valley Regional Hospital is able to help out.  

The Pine Ridge Middle School student will be homeschooled for as long as necessary and Hohmann has taken a leave of absence from work for a year to concentrate on her daughter.

“She’s doing pretty good. Most days her spirits are up but she doesn’t understand some days why she has to go through it.”

The treatment days are long, the travel and medications are costly, but Hohmann says doctors believe there is a 90 per cent chance of remission.

 

Karissa Bezanson, 11, is undergoing intensive treatments for leukemia.

‘Our new reality’

“It was a little scary at first but it’s just our new reality. It’s a lot to take in,” Hohmann admits.

“We’re pretty lucky. We have a lot of support from family and friends – and even people we don’t know.”

Family friend Lorrie Penny is organizing a benefit to help Hohmann keep up with the travel and medication costs associated with Karissa’s treatments.

“My grandson really thinks the world of Karissa. They’ve always hung around together and been excellent friends. My granddaughter, same thing,” says Penny.

“They wanted to do something and I said, ‘We’ll see what we can do.’ I was so proud of my grandchildren for wanting to do something for another child.”

It didn’t take long for Penny and her daughter in-law to find a group of volunteers to help plan a fundraiser. The event, a silent auction with music and refreshments, will be Feb. 11 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Kingston Lions Hall.

“People have been so generous, so caring,” says Penny. 

Penny, who owns Subway in the Greenwood Mall, will also be accepting donations for Karissa at work.

Hohmann says it’s incredibly heartwarming to see so many people – kids included – rallying around her little superhero.

“We’re very appreciative. It’s very good of them… I just don’t feel like thank you is enough,” says Hohmann, noting that it all helps her keep things straight and continue to focus on Karissa’s care.

“I show her everything. It helps her spirits when she reads stuff. We’re pretty lucky we’re in a small town.”

Constant source of hope

Hohmann knows it could take one to two years for Karissa’s treatments to conclude, but there’s a bell on the wall of the cancer unit at the IWK that acts as a constant source of hope for the Greenwood Square residents.

“When you’re done your treatment you get to ring it and all the doctors that treated you come… everybody comes. We watched a child do it when we were in the hospital and it was such a big thing. They had Minnie Mouse because the little girl was done her radiation… it was amazing,” says Hohmann.

“The IWK is the most fantastic hospital. I can’t even say enough about them.”

Hohmann says her parents and the medical professionals working with Karissa help them both remain strong as they long for the day Karissa gets to ring the bell.

“We can’t wait,” says Hohmann.

 

If you go: The Benefit for Karissa Bezanson will be at the Kingston Lions Hall from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 11. There will be a silent auction, refreshments and music.

Latest News