Benefit set for local youngster battling leukemia

Heather Latter

Three-year-old Laud Edwards was diagnosed with childhood leukemia on Dec. 11 and currently is undergoing chemotherapy in Winnipeg.
A benefit to help support the Fort Frances family is planned for this Saturday (March 31) at 2 p.m. at the International House of Bowling over in International Falls.
“You just never know when you’ll be in that same situation and need someone to be there for you,” said Kari Gansch, who is organizing the benefit along with Kristi Taylor.
Gansch hopes people come out and support the family—Laud’s parents, Pam and Gary, and siblings Cole, 16, Piper, nine, Berea, seven, Jude, five, Creed (Laud’s identical twin), three, Jubilee, two, and Nain, five weeks—as well as his grandparents, Bud and Fay Edwards of Fort Frances and Mike and Ann Holden of the Falls.
The benefit will feature sloppy joes and hotdogs, a silent auction, a bake sale, and raffles, with items being donated by celebrities such as St. Louis Blues’ forward Jamie Langenbrunner, TLC’s “What Not to Wear” co-host Clinton Kelly, and UFC fighter Paul “The Gentleman” Bradley.
There also will be an appearance by “Grandpa Magic” and face-painting for the kids, along with some fun bowling.
“They are a great family and I just think it’s a good way to help alleviate some of the financial burden,” Gansch reasoned.
“I’m really thankful that Kari has stepped up to do this,” said Pam Edwards, who has been staying with her son in Winnipeg.
She noted it has been tough on her family since they brought Laud to the emergency room at La Verendrye Hospital here on Dec. 10.
“The Monday before that, I noticed he was really pale, his lips were purple, and he was just really lethargic, not wanting to do anything, not wanting to play with the other kids,” the mom of eight recalled.
“At that point, I just thought he must be fighting a virus,” she added, saying she suggested they wait a few days and see.
“By Friday, I realized this wasn’t normal.”
Doctors here told the family they needed to get Laud to Winnipeg. So the next day, Edwards and her father drove the youngster to the Health Sciences Centre, where he was diagnosed with leukemia.
“It was really tough,” Edwards admitted. “My dad lost it. He just broke down.
“I’m kind of glad that he broke down because I needed to stay focused, and at least someone was letting the emotion out.”
She wasn’t even prepared to be in the city that long, having only packed a few outfits. She didn’t return to Fort Frances until Christmas Eve.
Laud has not yet been back to his home since that day.
“We met with the doctors and found out about leukemia and the process,” Edwards explained, noting he had a couple of bone marrow draws during the first month.
“They wanted to get his leukemia counts down by his eighth day there,” she said. “They wanted it to be at zero percent.
“[But] they didn’t get it down as low as they had hoped, so that put him in a high-risk protocol.
“He’s on a very intense chemo track right now,” she added.
Edwards indicated by Day 30, Laud’s leukemia count had dropped to .01 percent, which is where they wanted it to be.
“He’s now considered in remission, but the whole process can take over three years for boys because there are places leukemia cells can hide out and one of those is in the testicles,” she noted, adding he has to go through different rounds of chemo.
“What’s left at this point are resistant leukemia cells, so that’s why they are hitting him really hard with the chemo,” she explained.
Looking back, there may have been signs about Laud’s health. Early in December, the children got pink eye and his took a lot longer to heal.
Back in October, the kids had the ’flu and again Laud took a lot longer to recover from that.
“His oncologist said that it had probably gone on two to three months,” Edwards said. “But it was nothing we would have brought him in for.
“It was just taking a little longer.”
Laud has experienced a lot so far with his treatments. This includes being put on steroids, which is part of the chemo regiment, and he just ate everything.
“It was unbelievable,” Edwards remarked. “He was eating plate-fulls of food every three hours.
“That was really kind of difficult as a parent because I just could not believe how much food he wanted.”
Then he was put on another drug that caused him to stop eating, and he went three weeks barely eating anything.
“They were also going to put him on a feeding tube,” his mother noted, saying he was having trouble chewing and swallowing and was losing a pound a week.
Then Laud seemed to get over that side-effect. But he was given another drug that affected his nerves, so he could barely walk and was really shaky.
There also have been other side-effects from his chemo treatments.
Meanwhile, while staying in Winnipeg with Laud, Edwards gave birth to a baby boy on Feb. 17.
Prior to Laud’s diagnosis, she had planned to have the baby in Winnipeg because she wanted a vaginal birth after a C-section, which can’t be done in Fort Frances. So luckily she already had a doctor there.
Then in May of last year, the couple’s five-year-old son had major eye surgery in Winnipeg.
“For me, personally, to know Winnipeg and know the Health Sciences Centre at this point was huge because I think I would have stressed out,” she admitted.
“Because we had done all these trips for our five-year-old and my pregnancy, I just knew that was God giving me a break in that area.”
In addition, Edwards’ husband, Gary, currently is on disability and not working due to a failed back surgery in January, 2011.
“Last year was a tough year for us. We’re hoping for new and better things,” she remarked.
“In all that, I don’t know how it would have gone if he would have been working, so we’ve tried to just look at the good things.
“I feel bad that his back hurts so much, but I can’t imagine how we would have done this.”
But Edwards said they are managing and taking it one day at a time.
“For us personally, because this is an area where we can’t make anything happen, we’ve just been able to trust God,” she indicated.
“One of the first things they told us was that if we had not brought him in, he would not have survived four-six weeks.
“Immediately we had to deal with the death factor. Being Christians, we just dealt with it,” she reasoned. “We don’t believe this is the end and we believe in healing.
“And we’re going to trust God.”
She also said Laud has a very laid-back personality and is coping.
“He’s not a complainer, but there are some things he doesn’t like, such as having to get his finger poked.
“Other things he is okay to deal with.”
The couple’s other children are handling it well, but they certainly miss each other, Edwards noted.
“I don’t think the kids realized how long it is going to be or what was going to happen,” she admitted, saying the siblings were able to visit him over March Break.
Laud misses his twin brother, in particular, since they had never been separated for any length of time until that point.
“When the two got together again for the first time in January, the reunion was incredible,” Edwards recalled, noting they still are very much connected even though they are apart.
Edwards added Cancer Care Manitoba has been so helpful with their journey so far.
“His oncologist has just been wonderful, good at explaining things to us,” she said, adding the children’s area there is packed full of toys and all the latest technologies.
They also have a child life specialist there for Laud and a social worker to make sure the family is receiving the assistance from Ontario that they need.
Laud and his mom have been staying at Gary’s sister’s home in Winnipeg because he has been required to be in the city so he is close by if he needs to get to the hospital quickly.
He was in the hospital for a week-and-a-half at the first just to get things under control, and has had to be admitted into the hospital for various chemo treatments.
However, he may get a chance to come home this week—if everything looks good. But he won’t be able to attend the benefit because of too much exposure.
Also at Saturday’s benefit, Ria Cuthbertson and Kelly Haney have decided to let some of Laud’s siblings cut about a foot off of their hair, which then will be donated to a company called Art of Wigs, which makes wigs for females with cancer and alopecia.
The money raised from this will go to Laud and his family.
Another woman, Kimberly O’loughlin, also will be raising money for the family by collecting sponsors for her to run a marathon in Fargo.
Donations can be made to both of these fundraisers, or directly to the benefit, by sending funds to TruStar FCU, 601 4th St., International Falls, Mn., 56649.
Make cheques out to “Laud Edwards Benefit.”