Four-year-old Landon Ockerlander, of East Troy, receives treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee. Ockerlander receives chemotherapy weekly at the hospital and daily at home. A fundraiser on Sunday at Lindey’s on Beulah to help the family with medical costs.

 

Fundraiser planned to help 4 year old with leukemia

By Tracy Ouellette

SLN Staff

While most don’t dwell on it, the reality is: life can change radically in an instant. An accident, a job loss … an unexpected diagnosis can forever alter the course of someone’s existence.

For the Ockerlander family of East Troy, it’s been a series of bad breaks.

In the summer of 2016 dad, Mike Ockerlander, was injured in a riding lawn mower accident and lost the majority of his left foot to amputation. The cost of the rehab needed for the next year depleted the Ockerlanders savings and they were forced to take out loans to make ends meet because Mike was unable to work for six months and limited hours for the next six months.

Then, in 2017 mom, Chrissy, and Mike began to worry about Landon’s development and began a series of tests with multiple doctors, which lasted several months before Landon was diagnosed with autism in 2018.

But it was the latest setback on Nov. 15 that struck terror into Chrissy and Mike’s hearts when Landon was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

According to cancer.org, leukemias are cancers that start in cells that would normally develop into different types of blood cells. Most often, leukemia starts in early forms of white blood cells, but some leukemias start in other blood cell types. Acute lymphocytic leukemia is also called acute lymphoblastic leukemia. “Acute” means that the leukemia can progress quickly, and if not treated, would probably be fatal within a few months. “Lymphocytic” means it develops from early (immature) forms of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.

ALL starts in the bone marrow (the soft inner part of certain bones, where new blood cells are made). Most often, the leukemia cells invade the blood fairly quickly. They can also sometimes spread to other parts of the body, including the lymph nodes, liver, spleen, central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and testicles (in males).

Receiving the news

“We noticed some bruising on Landon and because he has autism and is considered non-verbal, we wanted to make sure no abuse was happening, we didn’t think there was, but you don’t know,” Chrissy Ockerlander said. “We also wanted to rule out a bleeding disorder because it runs in the family.”

The Ockerlanders took their son to the doctor for some lab work to find out what was going on after ruling out any sort of possible abuse.

“Two hours after we got the labs run the doctor called and said we had to get up the Children’s (Hospital) right away,” Chrissy recalled. “Of course, it was a Friday and we had to wait the weekend for the official diagnosis, but we were pretty positive it was leukemia by then.”

Landon started treatment immediately, Chrissy said.

“The first month he had four chemos,” she said. “He actually is in remission now, which is fantastic, but the treatment will be 2-1/2 years.

Treatment for Landon consists of weekly trips to Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee for chemotherapy and a spinal tap along with daily chemotherapy at home.

“It was twice a week in November, but now it’s down to one,” Chrissy said.

With constant trips to the doctor and hospital, Chrissy said Landon has done better than they expected.

“We were kind of shocked, actually,” she said. “Landon hated doctors and because of the autism had a lot of anxiety about going to them and medical things, but after being in the hospital for two weeks he really adjusted.

“He’ll take the stethoscope and put it on his heart and on his belly, he knows where it goes now so he’s not afraid. And the staff at Children’s is so amazing and put him at ease.”

Landon’s comfort in medical settings is a great relief to Chrissy, who said the next 2-1/2 years of treatment will include weekly spinal taps, a couple of bone marrow biopsies and chemotherapy. All of which can be painful.

“Luckily he’s knocked out for all that,” she said.

Looking forward

For now, the Ockerlanders are taking things day by day, with a strong hope for a full recovery for Landon.

“We’re lucky, we got the most common type of leukemia,” Chrissy said. “It has a 95% recovery rate, a lot of kids aren’t so lucky.

“We know he’s going to beat this, it’s just a matter of time, but he’s going to knock this out.”

Chrissy said she’s been so touched by the support at Landon’s school, Little Prairie Primary in East Troy, and the community as a whole.

“People have reached out to us, asked us what we need, told us how much they’ve missed Landon, it’s been wonderful,” she said.

Landon’s grandparents, Charmaine and Bill Cesar, along with other family and friends, are hosting a fundraiser at Lindey’s on Beulah, W1340 Beach Road, East Troy, on Sunday to help Landon and his family with their bills. The silent auction and raffle fundraiser will be from 1 to 4 p.m.

“Everyone is being so generous,” Chrissy said. “It means a lot.”

She added that there is another way people can help, if not Landon, then other children with cancer.

“Go to Be The Match,” she said. “It’s a bank where you can go for a swab and they put it on file and if a kiddo or person needs a bone marrow transplant or stem cell transplant, you’ll be in their bank and you can really help save a life.”

For more information, visit bethematch.org.

 
 

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