The 2017 Mineral Wells Rams football regular season finale at home was dedicated to freshman Erin Hite, who earlier this year was diagnosed with osteosarcoma – bone cancer – that resulted in the removal of her left arm and most of her left shoulder in September. The cancer also spread into her heart, and she underwent surgery to remove that tumor. The 14-year-old artist and photographer has battled her cancer with determination and positive attitude. She served as honorary team captain on Friday, taking the field with family members. She won the coin toss for the Rams, calling "heads." She was presented a football autographed by the Rams, a gift basket and monies from collections. There were fundraisers throughout the stadium for Erin. "No Ram should have to fight alone."
Cancer could only take so much from Erin Hite
Cancer has taken Erin Hite’s left arm, but not her spirit.
The Mineral Wells High School freshman is approaching her future with confidence and determination while she learns to adapt and do for herself, relying on others for help as little as possible. Independence is how she and her brothers are raised by their father, local plumber Jason Hite.
As a junior high eighth-grader in February, all was well in Erin’s world. A talented young artist she used her left hand to draw and paint. Taking photographs using her phone and a Canon digital camera is another of her artistic passions. She enjoys watching shows and videos on Netflix and YouTube, and hanging out with friends. A typical young girl thinking about high school and her life and world beyond her school days.
She and her older brothers Jason and Jordan have all attended Mineral Wells ISD since kindergarten. They lost their mother in August 2016, and now have a stepmother, Elizabeth Hite.
Erin’s world turned upside down in February when one of her brothers hit her in the upper left arm with a golf club. Of course that would hurt anyone, leaving at least a deep bruise and probably a welt. But the blow was especially painful to Erin, and the uncomfortable pain lingered to the point she went to the hospital.
Believing it was a deep tissue bruise, she used ice and Ibuprofen to try and calm the pain. When that failed, she ended up going in May to Cook Children’s Medical Center, where X-rays revealed the unexpected – a broken arm caused by a large tumor that had reached around to the shoulder blade. It was a large osteosarcoma, a type of cancer that grows in the bone and is common in children and young adults.
When told of the tumor, the 14-year-old first thought like many others when told they have cancer.
“I thought I was going to die,” she said. “I was home and was thinking about it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I was praying for it not to be, but it was.”
The news would only get worse. She was going to lose her entire arm and shoulder and begin chemical chemotherapy treatments – the first of three types of chemo – that would make her sick and lose her long, wavy brown hair.
It got worse still.
Before surgery and chemotherapy, doctors checked Erin’s overall physical condition including a full body scan that revealed yet another tumor – on the inside of her heart.
Before removing her arm, doctors had to perform open heart surgery to remove that tumor, which took place on May 19.
“They got it all, they said,” said Erin. “Then I began chemo the next day. That was a lot.”
There is concern about “a spot” images found on one of Erin’s lungs – they it is not of a concern at present and hopes are it is a false spot on the image. That, of course, will be monitored and watched.
Months of treatments led to surgery in September to amputate her arm and remove most of her left shoulder.
The surgery was going to be performed at MD Anderson Hospital in Houston, but Hurricane Harvey’s arrival in late August changed that plan, and the surgery took place at Cooks.
Suddenly, tasks that most people take for granted were now a challenge for Erin, but with a smile and a positive attitude, she simply began learning how to do as much as she can with one arm and hand – and is doing well, she said.
“I have been doing just fine,” Erin said. “I can still use my phone. I can still use my camera and still take pictures.”
She even learned to pull on and button her pants and tie her shoes.
“She doesn’t want to ask her help,” said Erin’s maternal grandmother Lewana Jones. “She does it on her own.”
Jones said when they were in the oncology ward at Cooks, Erin saw other children with cancer, some in worse condition than her, especially one girl on the cancer floor.
“She said, ‘I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me like I do that little girl,’” Jones said. “She has sympathy for others but she doesn’t want others to worry about her.”
Travis Elementary School teacher Cody Jordan knows Erin from her time as a member of The Cadets singing ensemble, led by Jordan. She said she went to visit Erin in the hospital to show her support and encouragement, but said it was Erin who showed even more love and support.
“She gave it to us,” said Jordan.” We left there feeling so encouraged and uplifted. I just feel honored knowing her.”
Erin is receiving a lot of love and support not only from family and close friends, but from her schoolmates, teachers and school district. Several fundraisers have taken place and continue, including “Erin Hite Ram Tough” T-shirts sold and made in her honor.
She will be honored on the field during the regular season finale football game next Friday when Castleberry comes to Ram Stadium.
Erin is humbled and pleased by the community’s support.
“It feels good, especially the teachers supporting me,” she said. “It feels good. I feel honored.”
She hopes to continue her artistic endeavors and become a “YouTuber,” making money through videos on the social media platform.
A fund to accept donations for Erin has been established at Titan Bank in Mineral Wells.