Sending a child to kindergarten is a big deal to any family, but it is even more special to Brittany Snipes and Tommy Bliven, whose 5-year-old son, Landon, has been fighting leukemia since January 2017.
Though he’s considered in remission, he must take a daily oral dose of chemotherapy, five-day-a-month steroids and endure monthly chemotherapy and spinal taps. Landon, of Winter Garden, is on the long-term maintenance plan because he was considered in the very-high-risk category when he was diagnosed, his mother said.
His three-and-one-half-years of treatments will continue until May 2020.
In the meantime, Landon is going to school when he feels well enough, eating plenty of Chick-fil-A (with a double order of fries), watching “Avengers: Infinity War” and playing “Jurassic World” on his Xbox.
On Wednesday, Sept. 5, Landon and his parents will be in downtown Winter Garden to receive a proclamation from Mayor John Rees and to celebrate the lives of other local children battling cancer.
“We are asking Winter Garden’s local businesses to light up in gold,” said Lydia Rodriguez, senior campaign manager for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. “By doing this, it will help raise awareness and honor children with cancer. This year we are calling the event Light up for Landon. My goal is to host and honor a new child in Winter Garden every year in September.
“This is a way for us to support our local families who are battling cancer and to honor/remember the ones who have fought this dreadful disease,” Rodriguez said.
Employees at The Whole Enchilada, where Snipes is working part-time, will be wearing black and gold in September.
It all started with a high fever in January 2017. After several days, his parents took him to see his pediatrician, who suspected mononucleosis. Blood tests and a trip to the hospital revealed something worse: Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
“That moment our entire world turned upside, medical words had no meaning to us, and we had to come to terms with the "C" word for our one and only 4-year-old son,” Snipes wrote on a crowdfunding page she set up.
“Landon had no idea that this meant no more school, hanging out with friends every weekend, sporadic Disney trips or even trips to Target or Publix on a normal basis,” she wrote. “He had no idea that every night or day was going to be a surprise and every moment after that would follow an on-going doctor’s appointment, which could be daily, weekly or monthly, hospital trips at any moment and chemo treatments frequently.
“How exactly do you tell a 4-year-old this kind of news?” Snipes wrote.
The bad news was his white cell count was 71,000; the good news was there were no signs of leukemia in his spinal fluid or organs.
Snipes quit her full-time job so she could care for her son.
“I took the whole first year off because he couldn’t go to school and he was in the hospital, like, every day,” she said. Once he got cleared for school I went back to work part-time. That’s my fun job; that’s my ‘me’ time now.”
As for Landon, he’s looking forward to turning 6 on Sept. 20. His parents are grateful for that milestone, too.
“Landon is also not the only kid having to battle this disease and our goal is not to just fight for Landon but to also raise awareness and give whatever we can to also help others just like him,” Snipes wrote on the GoFundMe account. “We truly believe that there was a reason that this happened and it’s God’s will to use Landon as a vehicle to create a community for families just like ours and to put a smile on every kid’s face as they battle this disease.”
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.