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In this week's edition of Postin' Up, we took a break talking with players and sat down with a member of Nebraska coaching staff in second-year assistant Chris Harriman. This has been a special week for Harriman and his family, as the Big Ten Network film crew was in Lincoln on Monday filming them for their popular show, "The Journey", to take a look at the Harrimans and their son, Avery, who has been battling leukemia the past four years.
The episode is scheduled to air on Sunday night at 7 p.m. CT, immediately following the Huskers' home game against Minnesota.
When Nebraska returns to action against the Golden Gophers, both coaching staffs will be sporting sneakers with their suits in honor of the "Coaches vs. Cancer" program, which raises cancer awareness through college basketball. Today, Harriman talks about his family's fight with Avery's cancer, their experience with "The Journey", and gives a very positive update on his son's condition.
Q: Talk a little bit about the "The Journey" deal you guys had earlier this week. I'm sure that was a fun and unique experience for you and your family?
CH: "It was pretty neat. It was something they contacted me about and just said, 'Hey, we want to share your story. We want to talk a little bit about what you guys have been through.' For my wife and I, it's been a difficult thing on when to share it and when not to, because obviously you get a little emotional about it, as I'm sure you'll see. It was like bumbling babies. But it's going to create awareness, which is what the goal is for us. They were everywhere. They were at practice, obviously the game against Ohio State - they chose a good one - to my house, Avery's school. I think it airs Sunday, so we're looking forward to it. Anything we can do to kind of create awareness to help anybody else out that goes through something like this in the future, we'll do it for sure. I know people have done things (on Avery) in the past and everybody's written some great things, so we look to keep creating as much awareness as possible and help anybody in the future."
Q: How is Avery doing now?
CH: "He's doing great. He's doing really, really, really well. Obviously back in school, and I would say functioning at an almost-normal life. I'm not sure if he can be at that point just yet, but he is off all his medicines, which is the most important thing. He's in school and living in less of a bubble than what he was in the past. So he's doing really, really, really well. He's healthy and getting stronger every day."
Q: How long has it been since he was originally diagnosed?
CH: "He relapsed on October 17 (2012), had the (bone marrow) transplant on February 15 (2013), so we're coming up on almost a year. It's been a while. It's been a long road, a tough road, but like I said the other day, this has been a pretty special place to be, which I had no idea about before moving here, that this would be such a great place, such a supportive place, and so many good people to help me and my family through this. It's been really good."
Q: I know you've had opportunities to go elsewhere with your career since you got here. Can you talk a little more about what it is about Nebraska and the support system you have here that made you decide this was a place you wanted to stay?
CH: "We had decided in St. Louis, and I didn't really much interest in leaving, even though I did have a couple opportunities to go to some different places, until he finished his treatment. When I had moved here, he still had a couple weeks left, so my family stayed and finished out all his treatments. We didn't know, Robin. We didn't know. We came up here with not much of an idea at all about what Lincoln would be like, but I just told somebody the other day, when you've got Nancy Osborne dropping off food at your house; the football staff; (NU executive A.D.) Marc Boehm's wife, Janelle, has been incredible; Billie Papuchis; Darcy Smith; I could go on and on about the amount of people who have just, whether it be picking up my daughter from school or bringing over food to me during the season when I was back and forth and just helping out in any way. Obviously Coach Miles has been incredible. Just anything I've needed, whether it be, 'Coach, I need a day off. I've got to go to the hospital.' It's been a blessing, a complete blessing, to be here during this time, and it's something that I didn't anticipate, that's for sure."
Q: Obviously the Coaches vs. Cancer event hits home with you a little more than it might with people who haven't had your family's experience. What does it mean for you to see coaches across the country all showing their support this cause?
CH: "I'm really excited. I'm really looking forward to it. It's something that Kristin Eichorst and Marc Boehm have been talking about for some time, so I'm really looking forward to having as many people out and creating awareness, but not only that, we're going to try and do everything we can to expand the registry (for bone marrow donors). What I mean by that is, when Avery was first diagnosed, or when he first relapsed, they give you a registry of donors, and you want to be a 10 of out 10 match. It sounds fairly simple, but it's not. Out of 4,000 people originally, that got cut down to 2,000 because of the age limit, and then with male/female it gets cut down again. Have you been sick in the past month? Next thing you know, there were three possible donors. One of those was out of the country, another one was sick and unable to do it, so we had one chance.
"So if we can expand the registry with this game, and it's really simple. All it is is a cotton suave in your mouth, and that's the only commitment your making. You just go into an expanded registry and hope that at some point you can give another little kid like Avery a chance, because if we didn't have that, I'm not sure where we'd be right now. It means a lot to my family. Obviously everybody's been affected by cancer, so for us it has true meaning, and I'm looking forward to a pretty special day and hopefully top it off with a really good win against Minnesota."