Summer Hammond was a remarkable young woman who exuded joy, positivity and determination throughout her short life. During her teen years, she was involved in a multitude of sports and school activities. She had a particular passion for gymnastics, skiing, snowboarding, and soccer, and she loved working and caring for animals.
In January 2011, on her 16th birthday she was given the diagnosis of Rhabdomyosarcoma. Her cancer like so many presented as an innocuous appearing lump. In her case it was in the left hand between her thumb and index finger. With all of her athletics, we thought it was probably a torn muscle or hematoma. It wasn’t till she noted it had increased in size that she was taken to a hand surgeon. Subsequent biopsy revealed an alveolar subtype of Rhabdo. After multiple scans and bone marrow aspirates, it revealed that she had metastatic disease in her hip and several vertebra. She entered a vaccine trial at NIH before starting therapy, and then began a 52 week aggressive chemotherapy regimen and radiation therapy.
Despite the cancer, Summer elected to continue with high school, she remained on the soccer and gymnastic team, and though an infrequent participate, she was there when she could support her teams. She was elected President of her senior class, and received the Gold Award in Girl Scouts with a project that focused attention on the desperate need for platelet donors. Summer, like all these kids, required enormous numbers of transfusions of blood and platelets during her chemotherapy. From her experience, she designed a project that brought community awareness to the need for platelet donors, and through her efforts, she was able to increase the overall donor pool in her community.
Summer was deemed cancer free after the exhaustive year regimen, and graduated on time from her high school. She entered Dartmouth College and during the first week of orientation she was found to have an isolated recurrence in her breast. She underwent a mastectomy and additional chemotherapy and in the “true Summer” spirit, completed her first year of college. During that first year, despite the ongoing treatment, she played competitive soccer for the Dartmouth women’s club soccer team. At the completion of the summer break, she did an internship at a working ranch, in preparation for her becoming a Veterinarian. She returned for the fall quarter, only to be told she had another recurrence at the mastectomy site. She again underwent additional resection and radiation. Summer did a language study abroad in her sophomore winter quarter in Argentina, and upon her return had an additional recurrence detected in her spine. Within a months’ time the isolated lesion in her spine had metastasized to her abdomen and lungs. A week before her death, Summer participated in the Prouty Golf Tournament at Dartmouth to raise money for cancer.
Summer’s story is like so many stories, of children with enormous promise taken before their time. She never let cancer define her. She lived on her terms and remained forever positive and incredibly strong. To her sorority sisters of Kappa Kappa Gamma, her mantra was “Be Better”.
Summer was an indeed a remarkable young woman, who through her short life proved to be an inspiration to others facing adversity. Her story, her values, and how she chose to live life, will forever have an impact on her family, and those who knew and loved her.