FIRESTONE — Nine-year-old Jared Hann plops down on his living room floor with a plastic toolbox and begins fiddling with the lock to open it.
This is not his Hot Wheels collection, a box full of toys or anything else you would expect a boy of his age to display proudly for a visitor.
Inside are seven brown pill bottles, all medications to either fight Hann’s leukemia or help relieve sickness caused by chemotherapy.
Through round glasses, Jared peers at the pill bottles, holds one up and shows it off. He smiles broadly.
Jared doesn’t talk much to people he’s just met because of a speech impediment, but he’s not shy.
“See,” he says, popping open a compartment on the front of the box to show off the medical supplies — Band-Aids, gauze, etc.
Jared has already spent one-third of his young life fighting leukemia, and now he faces at least another three years of battle.
Today, he hopes to participate in the Race for Life fundraiser at the Dacono BMX track, to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America.
In 2000, when Jared was almost 4, doctors diagnosed him with acute lymphatic leukemia, the easiest form of the white blood cell cancer to cure, said his mom, Kathleen.
After three years of chemotherapy, doctors believed he was cured.
More than 80 percent of children with this form of leukemia are alive 10 years after therapy, according to the University of Maryland Medical School.
But in October, during a routine checkup at The Children’s Hospital, blood tests showed that Jared’s leukemia had returned.
“It’s so rare that it recurs,” Kathleen said. “Sally, his nurse, has never gotten a call about that happening.”
“Nobody really believed it,” said Jared’s dad, Eric. “It was just numbing; it was a blur. Then you just run with it. ... You sort of become a warrior right over again.”
Jared is about six months into three more years of chemotherapy. He visits The Children’s Hospital every Wednesday and is on a regimen of medication — sometimes up to seven pills a day.
But his parents don’t spend too much time lamenting Jared’s situation.
Kathleen said tears gathered in her eyes when doctors diagnosis Jared’s relapse in October, but then she caught herself and focused.
What he’s missing out on may be the biggest shame, she said.
Jared felt good last year for the first time in years, she said. He had been behind in school, because of the treatments, but he was catching up.
“That’s what was so upsetting for me,” Kathleen said. “He’s just going to get more behind in school.”
And he’s also going to start feeling bad again.
While in remission, Jared had newfound energy, for better and for worse.
“He was in all kinds of trouble,” Eric joked. “He had all this energy that he never had before.”
Like many kids his age in the Tri-Towns, Jared also got interested in BMX biking.
Dacono has one of the best BMX dirt tracks in the state, and 77 children are on the local team.
Jared’s parent signed him up to race on the team last year.
“The BMX track did wonders for him,” Eric said. “Win, lose or draw, he was always smiling.”
That smile won a lot of friends.
“They love him. They call him ‘Smiley,’” track manager Stacy Bingham said. “He smiles from ear to ear all the time. It doesn’t matter if he comes in last; he’s always smiling.”
In fact, she said, it’s not uncommon for Jared to give a wave while on the track.
Track officials began taking part in the Race for Life fundraiser before Jared joined, though his participation in BMX has taught children more about the cause, Bingham said.
“When you have someone right there who has it, they can understand it better,” she said.
Jared hopes to race today, though the right conditions are important: white blood cell counts, the weather and how Jared feels.
“Right now, it’s good,” Kathleen said Friday. “He’s feeling really good, and he might be able to race.”
If you go
What: Race for Life
When: 2 p.m. today
Where: Dacono BMX Track, on Forest Avenue in Dacono
Cost: $10 to race; free to watch
Douglas Crowl can be reached at 303-684-5253, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.