Jared receiving treatment for Ewing’s sarcoma
by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Swanville students and community members have participated in more than seven fundraising activities and events to support fourth-grader Jared Leyendecker and his family as they meet the challenge of Jared’s treatment for Ewing’s sarcoma.
At a school assembly March 8, the Leyendeckers were presented with a check for $6,045.22.
“It’s amazing how generous all the people in the community were to help out a young boy who is suffering from Ewing’s sarcoma,” said Neal Weisz, Jared’s teacher.
The girls basketball team sold T-shirts, sold cancer basketballs and donated a dollar for every point scored during the junior varsity and varsity games. Several community members matched the total point donations.
Students in kindergarten through 12th grade held a hat day, paying $1 to wear a hat that day. There were “Jars for Jared” in each classroom, filling up with coins. The National Honor Society members held a bake sale.
First and fourth graders baked heart cookies, which sold for 50 cents each.
Jared’s journey began almost three years ago when he was 7. His left ankle would just swell up and be painful.
“It would show up, then go away,” said Jared’s mom, Susan. “We wondered if it was growing pains, or maybe he stepped on it wrong.”
“He might have two days of pain, but then it would be gone for two months,” said his dad, Tony.
About six months later, the Leyendeckers took Jared to the doctor, where they were told that he would grow out of it by age 10.
Then it got worse. “It was warm and red,” Jared said.
Last summer, he had about one pain-free day before hitting another stretch of pain.
During a visit to the emergency room, Jared’s parents asked more questions. They were referred to an orthopedist who diagnosed Sever’s Disease, a childhood inflammation of the heel. It wasn’t until another visit to the same clinic that a bone scan was done which showed an abnormality in Jared’s left heel. The doctor suggested it might be Ewing’s sarcoma.
“He said none of the signs were there except one — pain,” Tony said. “Jared wasn’t sick, and he hadn’t lost weight.”
Jared was referred to the University of Minnesota, where a computed tomography (CT) scan was done.
“They saw that Jared’s heel bone looked ‘moth-eaten,’” Susan said.
The next step was a bone biopsy, which was completed in a matter of days. The first testing procedures compromised the sample, so another biopsy had to be done.
It was Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, when the diagnosis for Ewing’s was confirmed. Jared started his first round of chemotherapy the next morning.
“The chemo was two to five days at a time for six doses,” Susan said.
Jared’s three younger sibling — Logan, Dalton and Chloe — are at home with their dad while Jared and Susan are in the Twin Cities.
A positron emission tomography (PET) scan was done at the end of the first chemotherapy program, which showed that the cancer had shrunk to less than half its size.
At that point, Jared had two options. He could undergo a limited surgery with some radiation in an attempt to keep as much of his leg and foot as possible, or his leg could be amputated halfway between the foot and the knee. The probability with radiation was that bone around the tumor would also be killed, leaving him more limited than with an amputation, and he was told that he would likely end up having the amputation after all.
He chose the amputation.
“I agreed with it, so that way I wouldn’t have to go through all that other stuff,” he said.
Following the surgery on Jan. 28 at the University of Minnesota, Jared is now in the middle of 22 more doses of chemo.
“He’s been set back two weeks by having a fever once and having a white blood cell count too low once so that the incision on his leg separated and wouldn’t heal,” Susan said.
Jared has not attended class in Swanville since October 2012, but a tutor comes out to his home when he is available.
“The tutor is here at least three to four days each week when he’s home,” Tony said. “Jared has an iPad to do “FaceTime” (similar to Skype) with his class.”
“It’s cool; everyone asks me questions,” said Jared.
“We try to FaceTime with Jared whenever possible so he can talk to his classmates and also listen to some stories we read,” Weisz said. “All of the students really miss him and they really enjoy it when I read from the CaringBridge Web site to keep them updated about Jared.”
Barring any more delays, Jared’s chemotherapy should be completed by late July. There has been no clear time given as to when he will be fitted with a prosthesis for his left leg.
There will be a benefit at the park in Swanville Saturday, April 27. A spaghetti feed will be served from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. There will be a silent auction from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. A raffle drawing will take place at 8 p.m. with cash prizes of $500 for first place, $200 for second place, and $100 each for third, fourth and fifth places.
“We want to thank everyone for the support they have given us,” Tony said. “So many have offered help wherever it’s needed and have made donations.”
“We all hope he will be back at school full time next year,” said Weisz.