A West Hartford teacher walks an ancient pilgrimage route to honor his son who battled cancer

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WEST HARTFORD — A local college teacher is hiking 180 miles along the Camino de Santiago for a very special reason: his son.

Jameth Mikan, a longtime West Hartford resident who teaches world languages ​​at Sedgwick Middle School, embarks on his journey down the ancient pilgrimage route on July 6 in honor of his son, who in 2019 was diagnosed with of neuroblastoma at the age of 3 years.

After numerous treatments and procedures — including extended hotel stays in New York during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic — her son’s most recent scans came back clean, paving the way for Mikan to make his travel.


So now, Mikan said, it’s time to give back to the organizations that have helped her family. He raises money for Band of Parents, a charity started by families who developed immunotherapy treatments for neuroblastoma and helped subsidize the cost of their hotel stays while seeing doctors in New York.

“With my son going through this and what I’ve seen, I want to get out of my comfort zone,” Mikan said. “Here in West Hartford, being in a comfortable home is complacent and far too comfortable. Part of the Camino is that you have to suffer. You will suffer. It is a representation of children who suffer.

This is not the first time that Mikan has traveled the route, which runs from western France, through the Pyrenees and into northern France. He conquered the stretch for the first time in 2014.

“It’s also real freedom,” Mikan said of the weeks he will spend on the trek. “There is nothing more revealing or feeling free than having a bag on your back.”

Neuroblastoma, Mikan said, is one of the most common childhood cancers in children five and under. Treatment has improved, but the diagnosis still carries a 50% mortality rate, he said.

“I get emotional thinking about it,” Mikan said ahead of her trip. “It’s not just for him, it’s for all the kids, parents and families I’ve met. You feel like it’s a bunch of brothers. You understand that these guys go to battle and try to go back to civil society and they can’t. It’s very difficult to go back to your job and take everything seriously and get back into the mainstream. One thing that I took away from it, you see how a human body can withstand.

Mikan, who teaches French and Spanish, also wants to bring that experience back to her classroom this fall.

“I thought about why I do it. There are a lot of reasons,” Mikan said. “It’s a goal and it’s a challenge and it motivates me. You always improve the language and you learn so much. You can bring this back. It’s my job to teach the languages ​​of the world and there’s no better development than getting started. And maybe it can inspire the kids to step out of their comfort zone and out of their West Hartford bubble. It is not dangerous.

Mikan hopes people will support his efforts by donating to Band of Parents, which he holds in high regard.

“It’s personalized. This charity, I know who runs it. I know who controls it,” Mikan said. “It goes directly to people. When we needed housing…at the height of the pandemic…Band of Parents subsidized the Marriott Residence Inn right downtown. We paid $35 a night.

Donations to Band of Parents can be made online at p2p.onecause.com/caminodesantiago. Mikan will also follow his travels on his blog, which can be followed at pilgrimsforcures.wordpress.com.

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