BRUSH PRAIRIE — They sat in a hospital room together during the gloomiest days of winter, one brother supporting another in his fight against cancer. On Tuesday afternoon, Lucas Holmgren joined his younger brother Denton again, only this time the outlook was considerably brighter.
The two combined on an acoustic cover of Porcupine Tree’s aptly titled song “Lazarus” in their family’s music room adjacent to their garage. New musical equipment and furniture surrounded them. A sign on the wall declared this “Wish Studios.”
Make-A-Wish transformed the music room into a recording studio Tuesday morning, complete with a new Macbook Pro and recording software, a keyboard, a couch and desk and soundproofing foam for the walls. The wish, organizers hoped, will help Denton plot a harmonious future while rising above the pain of the past 10 months.
Doctors diagnosed Denton, 17, with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on June 13, after he exhibited flu-like symptoms for a month. Aggressive chemotherapy brought Denton’s exploding white blood cell count under control. However, it also later resulted in pancreatitis, which required a lengthy stay at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland.
For Denton and his family, Tuesday was a milestone of sorts, and a recognition his future, which was put on hold, is once again bright.
Denton, a junior at Battle Ground’s Cam Jr. Sr. High School, hopes to make music or be a sound engineer, he said. The recording studio, he explained, will give him a chance to learn about both.
“I got everything and more that I needed,” he said. “It was just awesome to see it.”
Make-A-Wish Foundation of Oregon plans to honor 184 wishes in 2012, wish manager Maureen Newman said. Average wishes cost around $4,000, not counting in-kind donations from area businesses. She did not know what the studio cost, but noted the furniture was donated by local businesses.
Make-A-Wish volunteers worked on Denton’s recording studio wish for around four months, Newman said. Denton and his family toured a Portland radio station while volunteers installed his studio.
Music is in his family’s blood, Denton noted. His five brothers and three sisters are all active in music, whether singing or playing keyboards or guitars. So are his parents, Ron and Elizabeth.
Yet Denton’s interests, prior to his diagnosis, centered around playing sports like basketball, volleyball and baseball. He also enjoys drawing, painting and science fiction.
Cancer took away his ability to play sports but provided more time to practice music. He has written six or seven songs so far, he said. The lyrics touch upon the pain cancer wrought or about the rare pain-free days, he noted.
Perhaps he will record them one day.
“As of right now, I just want to learn how to do it all,” he said.
Ironically, Denton did not wish for the recording studio at first.
A huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, Denton had hoped to visit the movie set of The Hobbit in May. However, his chemotherapy schedule and then a bout with pancreatitis made such a trip impossible. This did not faze him, Make-A-Wish volunteer Liz Taylor noted.
Amid all his ups and downs, Denton remained a source of strength through it all, his family said.
“Denton didn’t ask, ‘Why me?’ ” said his brother Lucas, 21, who moved back into his parents’ house to be closer to his brother. “But family members struggled with the question of ‘Why not me?’ ”
“I never expected as a father to deal with something this difficult,” Denton’s father, Ron, said. “I wouldn’t wish this on anybody. But here we are.”
Denton attributed his perspective and resoluteness to his faith in God. His father is the pastor at the Hockinson Apostolic Lutheran Church.
“I rely on God to take care of me,” Denton said. “My faith has been tested but I think strengthened.”
Ten months after his diagnosis, Denton has moved to the maintenance phase of his treatment. He will return to the hospital for chemotherapy monthly for the next 2½ years.
Gone for now, though, are the extended hospital stays, the feeding tube during his exhausting bout with pancreatitis, the uncertainty.
They have been replaced by positives — continuing education at Clark College in the fall through the Running Start program, an ability to shoot basketball again this summer and, of course, his new studio.