PEORIA, Ill. — It’s not every day you hear of someone celebrating their second birthday, who is about to undergo chemotherapy.
But that’s what Brigham Landwehr, whose birthday is Saturday, is going through right now.
In mid-December, the Landwehr’s were seeking treatment for Brigham on what was believed to just be an ear infection.
“At the end of December, on the 28th, we noticed a small swelling, maybe the size of a dime, and we talked to the doctors. We thought it might’ve been a swollen lymph node,” said Brigham’s dad Seth Landwehr.
But weeks later, as swelling increased, the family had a sonogram on Brigham.
The news was something they never imagined.
“From that day on it’s been a roller coaster of emotions because doctors didn’t like what they saw from the sonogram, then we basically walked hand-in-hand down to St. Jude and that’s where they took over,” Seth said.
Brigham has been diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma.
Just this Thursday, he had a tumor removed from the adrenal gland on his left kidney. His parents say results came back very positive.
“We had the ultrasound on a Thursday morning, by Friday we were doing MRIs and they found it was quite a few places. There’s a very large tumor in his jaw/cheek area, but after more scanning they found a tumor on his left adrenal gland and so they did surgery this past Thursday to take it out. So within one week, we had a diagnosis and a surgery already,” said Stacey Landwehr, Brigham’s mother.
While they say there is a long journey ahead, Seth and Stacey Landwehr both have hope.
“(The surgery) went great. The pediatric surgical group was amazing throughout that whole time. They had nothing but fantastic marks throughout the whole surgery and he’s been recovering well from the surgery,” Seth said.
“It looks like he’s doing so well from the surgery that he’d be able to be discharged, and if he’s stable enough for that, they think he’s stable enough for chemo,” Stacey said.
Stacey and Seth say while the removal of the tumor went well, cancer has spread and Brigham will be undergoing chemo treatments this upcoming week.
“He’s our one and only boy, he’s the baby of the family. He’s fun, he’s energetic. Even up to now, the surgery the other day, he was running, playing, laughing and fighting. You would never know he’s sick,” Seth said.
“He’s our little spark plug and he keeps us on our toes,” Seth added.
“His sisters love him to death. They don’t like to be apart, it’s hard on them too,” Stacey added.
“We’re already so thankful for St. Jude, as a whole, I know there’s a lot of fundraising that goes on around here, especially for the St. Jude runs, but you never expect to be on the receiving end of it. The generosity is really overwhelming,” Stacey added.
Both Seth and Stacey have been serving the community for decades.
“This has been our community all our life. Since 15, she’s worked here at OSF and grown quite a lot of relationships out at late. I started out as AMT, she did the same thing. We’re both in the Air National Guard out in Bartonville, 182nd. So we have a big family there,” Seth said.
Now Seth is a detective for the Peoria Police Department and Stacey is a nurse at OSF.
Community support has been outpouring, especially from church and law enforcement communities.
“All the prayers we’ve been getting from everybody. A lot of churches people belong to have reached out through them and the prayers. Just the friends and families that have gone together for us,” Seth said.
“Anything you research online kind of gives you some fairly scary numbers for survival rates, but the doctors have reassured us since those numbers were last published, those numbers have come up and they’re in our favor. We still have a long road to go, but because of their research, we have hope for Brigham,” Stacey said.
The Landwehrs say St. Jude has been amazing through this entire process, covering all medical expenses for the family.
But both Seth and Stacey are unable to work during this time. They twin daughters, who have had to spend a lot of time at their grandparents’ house, and their dog has had to stay elsewhere during this time as well.
“Anything that anybody can do to get involved with St. Jude, they have been a blessing, and it’s a real eye-opener being on this side of everything. Going to the St. Jude clinic, the midwest affiliate here. There’s a ton of kids fighting the same fight. It’s not something you see all the time, it’s heartbreaking. I’ve cried for my own kid and I’ve cried for every other kid down there,” Seth said.
“We’re gonna fight this, beat this, and keep doing that stuff. That’s our hope too, for his future,” Seth said.
“From the bottom of our hearts, we don’t know how to even begin to think about paying it back, so all we can try to do is pay it forward,” Stacey said.
“By paying it forward, hopefully, we can bring attention to the upcoming St. Jude races. There are so many other people that have been here, from the people who bring the food up here to the rooms, everybody here at OSF have been great. There are a lot of moving parts in this and everybody’s keeping us strong,” Seth said.
Peoria Police Chief Loren Marion and Peoria Fire Department Chief Tony Ardis visited Brigham in the hospital Saturday morning.
“As a police department and first responder atmosphere, police, fire EMS, military even, when something like this happens within our family, everyone rallies together and provides the family with whatever they need,” Chief Marion said.
“Officers came up with an idea of selling shirts as a fundraiser, which is awesome,” Chief Marion added.
“They’re family. Whether it’s Stacey or Seth, they’ve worked for AMT and we’ve known them for many years and have been in the trenches with them. Whether it’s police, AMT, we’re all family. We work on the streets every day. They’re just special people,” Chief Ardis said.
“Whenever law enforcement hears about some type of tragic incident or sad situation like this, we all come together and show support one another,” Chief Marion said.
“OSF, the Children’s Hospital, the level of care they can provide and get here without having to pick up and move is amazing. The professionalism, the treatment they’re able to get here is awesome,” Chief Marion added.
If you want to get involved, you can find the link to buy t-shirts to support the Landwehr family here.