Landen’s Battle

Natalie Saltares
Landen Wilson and members from the OSU Love Your Melon group at the Davis Family Farm.

Sierra Koefoed Harlan News Contributor

A six-year-old’s battle with pediatric cancer, and the OSU organization that is raising money for the cause

Six-year-old Landen Wilson charged into the corn maze.

Landen’s laughter carried through the crisp, fall air at Davis Family Farm. He led his family and a small group of Oregon State University students bravely through deep puddles and proudly showed off the big pumpkin that he had picked earlier that afternoon.

While this was a day full of laughter and fun, the past few months have been anything but easy for Landen and his family. Landen’s parents, Cassie and Eli Wilson, received unexpected news  this past summer.

On Aug. 4, 2016 the Wilsons took Landen to the emergency room for what they thought would be a routine procedure. Landen was transferred to Doernbecher’s Children’s Hospital, and six days later he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. 

This news brought immediate change to the Wilson Family. Landen went from living the carefree life of a six year old to having doctor appointments and dealing with the repercussions of treatment. At the beginning of his treatment, Landen suffered compression fractures in the vertebrates along his lower back. 

“He went from a very active lifestyle filled with hiking, soccer, swimming, doing 3 mile runs weekly to barely being able to tolerate walking down the hall and having to wear a full back brace until he reaches the maintenance part of his treatment in the spring of 2017,” said Cassie.

Despite Landen’s weekly trips to Doernbecher’s Children’s Hospital for chemotherapy, Eli and Cassie work hard at providing Landen with a normal childhood. Landen is in kindergarten this year, and he goes to school for three hours a day when he feels well enough. He also goes to a weekly Awana’s church group when his blood count is high enough. However, there are challenges associated with going out, and it’s not always possible for the Wilsons to do everything that they would like to.

“Every year we have always gone to the Davis Family Farm pumpkin patch as a family tradition, and we weren’t sure how we would pull it off this

year,” Cassie said.

This is where a group of beanie-wearing, OSU superheroes stepped in. Their hats all bore “Love Your Melon” across the front, and their mission was to provide a fun day for the Wilson family.

Love Your Melon is an apparel based organization that donates 50 percent of their proceeds to pediatric cancer research and nonprofit organizations that help families who have been impacted by pediatric cancer. LYM has 740 campus crews that promote them and also hold Superhero Days for kids battling leukemia.

Lauran Danna, a sophomore at OSU, started a LYM campus crew last year. She currently has a crew of 19, and has enjoyed having the chance to make a difference.  

“I thought it was cool that it is so interactive with children that have cancer,” Danna said. “It isn’t just raising money, but you actually get to provide events for them and get them out and doing stuff and kind of take their minds off of it and just let them be a normal kid for a day.”  

Cassie had seen kids wearing LYM hats and learned more about the organization through other parents.

“When we originally contacted Love Your Melon about hat sizes, they informed us about donating a hat to children with pediatric cancer and sent us the information to fill out for one,” Cassie said. “Shortly after that, they reached out to us in an email about Love Your Melon Superhero day and asked if that would be something we would be interested in. We talked to Landen about it and agreed this would be something fun to do as a way of celebrating his strength throughout this time.”

The outing with the Wilson family is the first Superhero Day that the OSU LYM Melon crew has participated in, and afterwards everyone expressed their excitement about how rewarding the experience had been. Danna said that while this is a rewarding job, the weight of what these children are going through is a hard reality to face.

“The hardest part is knowing that there is a need for this type of thing,” Danna said. “You would wish that no kid would have to go through that and it kind of bums you out that that happens, but just getting to help them overcome that for a day is cool.”

Cassie said that the whole family had a great time at Davis Family Farm, and that it exceeded their expectations. She was encouraged to find an organization that focuses on pediatric cancer as she feels it is not publicized as much as other forms of cancer

and is underfunded.

“There are many long term side effects that these children face later in life due to treatments,” Cassie said. “Cancer is going to make people uncomfortable, but these children are warriors and if more people create a bigger voice for them then we can start seeing better funding someday.”

Thankfully, Landen will be able to receive the care that he needs to recover.  He will be going through treatment for the next three years and will continue to receive checkups for the rest of his childhood.

“I think this is something we will always carry throughout our lives, but we truly believe that Landen has an amazing life in store for him,” Cassie said. “When you are around Landen he completely lights up the room with his infectious laugh and bright personality. He is meant for big things.”

At the Davis Family farm, Landen trudged through the puddles and led his group of superheroes through the corn maze. It was obvious that nothing would stand in his way of reaching his destination. Landen has a long journey ahead of him but is determined to fight.

“I’m going to make my own path,” Landen said. 

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