Local News

Pittsboro Family Especially Thankful to Duke Children's Hospital

Posted November 28, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— Thousands of us across the triangle joined family and friends Thursday to feast and give thanks for a year's blessings. A special blessing came to one Pittsboro family this holiday.

Eighteen months ago, Al Hocutt and his wife Paula worried that their 12- year-old son would never see the Thanksgiving of 1996. He was then diagnosed with a rare cancer unknown to children. Duke Children's Hosptial removed the grapefruit sized malignant tumor and cared for Benjamin through several infections with no certainty of the outcome. This holiday brought the Hocutt's better news.

Al Hocutt gathers the family for a prayer:

We thank you for each other who sit here at this table today, and we thank you most of all for your love and grace and mercy.

Benjamin listens to his father's prayer, and is very thankful today that he's still walking the Earth.

Al Hocutt is one of 19 children. He's used to large gatherings. But this Thanksgiving, the Methodist pastor and his family decided to break bread in private. To celebrate, doctors called with news. Benjamin's cancer is in remission.

"We need this today to share with just one another, and to be thankful for each other today," Mr. Hocutt says.

In a quiet kitchen, Paula Hocutt enjoys making a good meal and ponders the last tumultous year-and-a-half. She's celebrating her family being together, being healthy and whole.

As a nurse, she fully understood the severity of Benjamin's cancer and marvelled at her son.

"From the beginning, Benjamin said that God wasn't through with his life," Mrs. Holcutt explains. "And he wasn't sure why we were so distressed."

The Hocutts find pleasure in simple and familiar actions. After months of pain, medical complications and the possibility that Ben may not survive, life is good.

Al Hocutt's mother died last month, never getting a chance to share this week's good news. Ben remembers her especially on Thanksgiving.

"She would cook what I liked," Ben recalls, "and made sure I ate more than one plateful, and she was there to support me."

This family is counting blessings with full stomachs and full hearts in a house filled with love and a truer understand of Thanksgiving than they'd ever had before.

Benjamin has agreed to be part of a 5 year study by Duke Hospital researchers. His cancer, leiomyosarcoma, is usually only found in older adults. In the meantime, Ben gets a bi-annual check-up instead of monthly exams. If he can stay cancer free for 5 more years, Duke says he will probably be cured.

That year will probably be a good Thanksgiving too. Ben will be a high school senior.