Harmony's song

Stagecoach woman receives outpouring of support in battle of her life

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— On Oct. 26, Harmony Harris' longtime boyfriend proposed marriage with a song he wrote for her.

They went for a walk along the dirt roads near their Stagecoach home and he was practicing the tune in his head as they walked.

When they got home, he sat down at the piano and started to sing.

It took her a few verses to realize that she should be listening more closely, that his words were going to change her life.

As the couple hugged and cried happy tears, they had no idea of the test life was about to throw them -- a test of their personal strength and a test of their love.

Harris had been feeling discomfort near one of her hips, painful cramping that she thought might be a gynecological problem.

She visited a few doctors until she was told she had lymphoma.

"When the doctor called, she said it was actually a good thing, as far as cancers go," Harris said. But when she went to the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center in Denver, the doctor told her that, in fact, she had leukemia.

"I just hugged my mom and cried," Harris said. "After that, everything started happening really fast."

Harris was admitted to Presbyterian/St. Luke's Hospital in Denver, where she stayed for 32 days.

According to the leukemia and lymphoma society Web site, leukemia results from an injury to the DNA of a single cell, which responds by multiplying continuously.

It interferes with the body's production of healthy blood cells and inhibits the body's immune system.

For the next month, Harris' days were a parade of doctors taking bone marrow and tissue samples, nurses with needles, a few spinal taps, scanning machines and endless hours of chemotherapy.

Harris had her birthday in the hospital, but the treatment designed to knock the cancer out of her body, rendered her half-conscious much of the time; she doesn't remember turning 29.

Harris' hospital room was furnished with a small hide-a-bed for visitors. Her fiance and her parents took turns sleeping there.

"My parents have been great," she said. "My mom has stayed really strong and she only cries when I do."

Harris came home two weeks ago to an outpouring of love from her friends and the parents of children she has taught for the past two years at Yampa Valley Montessori Education Center.

"I cry a lot just thinking about all the kindness everyone has shown me," she said.

The parents of her students have been taking turns bringing meals and helping out in every way they can.

A small group of friends is organizing a fund-raiser to help with her mounting bills.

Harris is still covered by medical insurance but is unable to work, so she has no source of income to cover rent and other bills that don't go away no matter how sick she is.

Harris will leave this week for another round of treatments, but in the meantime, she has been sitting at home, processing all that has just happened, she said.

Harris lost most of her hair during the treatment and dropped almost 20 pounds.

"It took me my entire life to weigh 115, now I'm back down to 95 pounds," she said.

Outwardly, she looks more fragile than she seems after a few minutes of laughing conversation.

"When I left the hospital, they told me what a positive attitude I had and what an inspiration I was to everyone, but now that I'm home -- spending time alone -- I wonder, is that true? Until now, I was just going through the motions through all those tests and treatments."

As she rests and tries to keep her mind from reeling and worrying, her friends are busy organizing the fund-raiser.

A dinner will be held at 9 p.m. Feb. 25 at Johnny B. Good's Diner in Steamboat. Dinner is $10 and there will be a cash bar. All proceeds will go to offset Harris' medical bills.

Paulie Anderson spent Thursday morning in Oak Creek hanging fliers.

"I barely had to ask in most places," he said. "They just hung them up. People love her."

Harmony and her fiance have their post office box in Oak Creek and do most of their shopping there.

"They come in to rent movies all the time," Spiro's Trading Post owner Virginia Paxton said. "We talk to her quite a bit. She's got a really good heart, and even with all this, she is so positive. We really admire her."

Spiro's donated a vest to be auctioned off on the night of the fund-raiser. Oak Creek restaurants Chelsea's and Pisa's also made donations.

For more information, call 875-1057.

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