Organization Helps Student Suffering Side Effects of Chemo Succeed in Classroom

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JOHNSTON, Iowa -- Being treated for cancer as a child teaches some very adult lessons. For one Johnston 6th grade student, the side effects of treatment also affected him in the classroom.

Cooper Wendland was diagnosed with B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in July 2016. “The main thing I was thinking about was passing away,” said Cooper.

Mom Stacie Wendland said, “Not that I`m counting, but today is Cooper’s 1,156 day of treatment, and he has 58 days left until he is done with his end of chemo ceremony."

One of the side effects of treatment was chemo brain. “We saw him making more lists. He’d get really frustrated when he couldn`t remember things and his testing had declined. While his testing had declined, it wasn’t to the point they would step in to help because he was testing above average, but we knew he needed help and was getting frustrated.”

An organization called Blood Sweat and Beers stepped in to help. Co-Founder Larry Laughlin said, “Our whole goal in life is to help offset the collateral damage of blood cancer on a family.”

It customized a grant for the family, paying for forty tutoring sessions in 2019. The one hour weekly one-on-one sessions with a professional educator has made a difference in test scores and confidence.

It's not likely something the family could have done on their own. “At the beginning, we were probably a little too proud to ask for help, but by the beginning of 2018, our medical out of pocket that we`ve already reached was $25,000, and it just got to the point that we had to have help,” said Stacie.

Now the family wants to continue sharing their story in the hopes of helping other families going through a similar fight. “Never give up and always look on the bright side of things,” said Cooper.

Cooper will serve as an honor patient at the upcoming Blood Sweat and Beers 5k. It is on Saturday, October 5th. It starts at 10 a.m. at The Walnut in downtown Des Moines.

BSB started five years ago. It's run by volunteers, so all the money raised goes to families battling blood cancers across the state.

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