The fight of his life

Galen Batson bravely battles leukemia

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— Galen Batson likes to joke he has the most expensive haircut in Steamboat Springs -- and it's not even a style he wanted.

More than six months after the 10-year-old Steamboat resident began chemotherapy to battle leukemia, Galen's hair is growing back and a move back home is a distinct possibility.

Galen was diagnosed with leukemia in March, shortly after his constant drowsiness and colds drew the worried attention of his parents, Deb and David.

Chemotherapy did little to curb the spread of the disease, and doctors recommended a bone marrow transplant. To make matters worse, a rare chromosome condition lessened the likelihood of a successful transplant and made finding a donor match even more difficult.

But doctors didn't need to look outside the family to find a match. Sean Batson, Galen's 13-year-old brother, was a perfect fit.

"It's cool he did that," Galen said. "It's kind of weird that he was a perfect match."

The transplant was performed, and even though the fluid has been reluctant to accept its new home in Galen's body, doctors are optimistic for a full recovery, Deb Batson said.

"He's doing relatively well," she said. "He feels good and he has some energy, but he will always have the risk of relapse."

Deb, who has lived with Galen in Denver since the end of July, said a late-January return to Steamboat is in the works.

"We'll be really glad to be home," she said.

Mother and son have lived since August at Brent's Place, an affordable, caring and clean Denver apartment complex for families of children dealing with cancer. Donn and Linda Eley established the home-like environment in 1997 after their son Brent succumbed to cancer at a young age.

Galen said the home away from home has been comforting during his struggles.

"It's been really nice because my first night in the hospital (my mom) wasn't there to stay with me," Galen said. "I got a little scared."

Galen and his mom have been together ever since that first lonely night in the hospital, he said.

While the heavy doses of antibiotics have weakened Galen's bones, they haven't touched his spirit.

"He's still got the same twinkle in his eye and the same quick smile," his mom said.

And those who know Galen may be surprised that his hair has grown back curly -- not the straight locks he had pre-chemotherapy.

Through all the treatments and hard times, Galen has yet to offer a hint of self-pity.

"He's never complained and he's never fussed," Deb Batson said. "He's put one foot in front of the other. He knows what he needs to do to get better."

Galen said he's looking forward to skiing and seeing his five cats when he gets back home.

In the meantime, he'll be content playing his cello, which helps him regain strength, and visiting with his family, which is staying in Denver through the Christmas holiday.

Brent's Place director Adele Gelfand said Galen is an "incredible little boy" who despite his own disease, always thinks of others first.

In fact, Galen, Sean and their sister, Kelsey, spent last weekend playing music for other sick children at Children's Hospital in Denver.

"We just went in to play," Galen said. "I think it makes them happy."

The time away from Steamboat has been tough on Deb, too. She stopped her work writing computer programs and has only been to Steamboat once since July.

"For me, the hardest part has been being away from my other kids," she said. "I even miss the traffic on Lincoln Avenue."

Galen's medical bills will reach $500,000 soon, according to Deb. The generous donations of friends and community members, coupled with the family's insurance, have offset much of the cost.

"I would love to thank the community for everything they've done," Deb said. "It really makes you feel the spirit of a community."

It's a community that Galen and Deb Batson can't wait to call home again.

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