Eight-year-old Nathan Sawyer, son of Ray and Lisa Sawyer of Jefferson, has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and leukemia. He faces years of medical treatments at tremendous cost to his family. A spaghetti supper and auction/raffle fundraiser is planned for Saturday, August 23 at Mountain View Elementary School in Jefferson. The supper ($5 per meal) begins at 5 p.m. followed by the auction/raffle at 7 p.m.
“It was real sudden,” Nathan’s mother, Lisa Sawyer, said of her son’s diagnosis. “One day he was having a hard time breathing and the next day he was in the hospital.”
Nathan was a happy youngster enjoying school and sports until one day in early July when he couldn’t breathe. His parents took him to the doctor in Ashe who sent him to the emergency room in Boone and from there to Brenner Children’s Hospital at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem. For nearly two weeks he underwent tests including blood work, bone marrow aspiration, lumbar puncture and biopsy of a tumor discovered in his chest. The tumor covered an area from his throat to the bottom of his sternum and all across his chest. “It was no wonder he was having a hard time breathing,” Lisa said. Then the bone marrow test found leukemia. He began chemotherapy on July 10 with three medications once a week, and then on August 7 a different medication injected three times a week for the next month. He has seven planned admissions between now and January, but if he gets a fever he must be immediately admitted to the hospital because of his compromised immune system. He is currently eating normally and playing soccer, Lisa said, but must be careful because the new medication is more severe with the potential for infections and more sickness.
“He lost about 23 pounds, which he didn’t need to lose, and he was so sick at first, but he’s better now,” Lisa said last week. “He’s going to school at Mountain View. They have been so wonderful. His teachers have been helping him and sent work for him while he was at home and in the hospital. The one thing he’s having a hard time with is losing his hair. He has to wear a hat or bandana to protect his skin. He’s doing really good, and his friends are great. The guidance counselor explained it to the other children and they have been really understanding. He plays soccer, and his coaches, Chris Miller and Kevin Roland, have been great. They even named the team Nathan’s Courage. That made him feel really good. He heard that when he was in the hospital, and it has really helped him.”
Lisa said it’s hard to understand when something like this happens and you don’t know why. No one in their families has had cancer, she said, and in 98 percent of the cases for children with leukemia doctors don’t know what causes it. She said Nathan was a healthy baby, weighing 9 pounds, 4 ounces when he was born. But when he was 4, both his eardrums disintegrated and had to be rebuilt. He lost all hearing in one ear and most in the other ear. After surgery, he recovered all hearing in one ear and most in the other. Other than that, he had no problems until this diagnosis in July.
The treatment he received right away caused the tumor to disappear within six days. The doctors, were amazed, Lisa said. “God’s healing hand took care of him. Now we’re just battling the leukemia.” As for his future, she said that once in remission, 90 percent of sufferers don’t have a relapse, but he will have to have at least two years of treatments.
A lot of prayers and a great deal of community support has helped Nathan and his family. “You would not believe the community outreach,” Lisa said. “A lot of times we just go on with our daily lives, but when something bad happens we just pull together. That’s what’s working, the prayers. Nathan has received so many cards, many from people we don’t even know. The fundraiser being planned and the donations are amazing. There are so many things donated, there will be a lot to choose from. We are hoping for a big turnout.”
Money raised through the fundraiser and donations will help tremendously with the medical bills. Lisa said she has insurance through her job, and since her husband didn’t, he quit his job to stay home and take care of Nathan. She said she had bought a cancer policy only a month before Nathan’s diagnosis, and when she bought the policy she said she was told it was effective immediately, but when she called in a claim for Nathan, she was told it wasn’t effective until August 1. She said she would advise people to get promises of policy effectiveness in writing or in a recording. Nathan’s treatments will cost thousands of dollars, plus there are transportation costs for going back and forth to the hospital.
Those who want to help can donate items for the auction/raffle by calling 246-5507 or email email@example.com. An account has been set up at AF Bank under the Nathan Sawyer Fund. And updates can be obtained by going online to www.caringbridge.org/visit/nathanscourage. Come and enjoy a spaghetti dinner on Saturday, August 23 at Mountain View school or enjoy the buffet at Pizza Plus on Friday, Sept. 12 from 5-9 p.m. when $1 of every meal will go to the Nathan Sawyer Fund.