FIGHTING THROUGH A NIGHTMARE: Spanish teacher Vanessa Olgreen’s son battles rare form of cancer

Vanessa Olgreen and her son Alex.

Vanessa Olgreen and her son Alex.

COURTNEY BULL, Staff writer

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Tough was an understatement for Spanish teacher Vanessa Olgreen and her son Alex. Just a week before his ninth birthday, Alex was diagnosed with a rare cancer that afflicts only 1 percent of cancer patients. It’s called Ewing Sarcoma, a bone/tissue cancer found in young children or adolescents. Alex has it in his tissue. Since its discovery, there have been only  200 reported cases of this disease in the U.S.

Throughout the month of August, Alex’s Boy Scout troop hosted a fundraiser selling T-shirts to help the family in this difficult time. The T-shirt read: “I am the child of the king. That makes me royalty. Brave as I can be. Everywhere I go, I know God is with me.” Kaufman ISD teachers brought Alex presents, donated money, helped pay medical bills and more.

“We chose that quote because, I believe this happened to us so that we could help raise awareness of this horrible disease.” Olgreen said.

Alex, an outgoing, fun and high-spirited boy, started becoming ill over the summer. Olgreen and her husband Jacob became concerned with an unusual lump under his armpit and rushed him to the doctor. Little did they know, that one doctor’s visit would change their lives forever.

“They said that he needed surgery to get it removed because it was an unusual mass,” Olgreen said. “We got it removed, but the surgery didn’t get all of the cancer. It’s like living in a nightmare that we never wake up from.”

Alex Olgreen

Alex Olgreen at home.

Ewing Sarcoma is what’s known as the “Ewing family of tumors.” In other words, it is a group of cancers that is found near the bone or the soft tissues. It starts in the chromosomes next to a section of DNA on one of the several other chromosomes that causes the Ewing Sarcoma gene to turn on.

“He has to go get his blood levels checked three times a week,” Olgreen said. “He has to wear a mask whenever he goes out in public. I have to wash his clothes in vinegar to kill all the possible bacteria that could make him sick. It’s very stressful, but I’d do anything for him.”

Colleague Crystal Huff’s daughter Katy was one of Alex’s close friends. The two would spend the afternoons after school running down the halls and playing together. After his diagnosis, Alex has been unable to come to school.

“I just want him to get better soon so we can continue our adventures after school,” Katy said.

Vanessa Olgreen and her son Alex (far left) with a friend at the Ranger game.

Vanessa Olgreen and her son Alex (far left) with a friend at the Ranger game.

In the coming weeks, there will be some major changes for Alex. He has completed his rounds of chemotherapy and will soon begin radiation and chemo combined. Radiation will last every day for six weeks and chemo will last for 16 weeks.

“If he is healthy after 16 weeks, he will be done with chemo. If not, we will continue,” Olgreen said. “He has to get blood transfusions quite often and has to take shots everyday.”

Alex continues to struggle with the hard days that come his way, but keeps his spirits and hopes high.

“God has a plan for us,” Olgreen said. “We are just going to trust in him and keep the faith strong.”

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4 Comments

4 Responses to “FIGHTING THROUGH A NIGHTMARE: Spanish teacher Vanessa Olgreen’s son battles rare form of cancer”

  1. Cory Smith on October 14th, 2016 10:43 am

    Great article, Courtney! Well written and informative!

  2. Reggie Navarro on October 14th, 2016 3:53 pm

    Covers all the salient points of a properly written news article should contain done in logical order with the right amount of personal feelings giving it that extra special human touch we need to make us feel, admire and empathize with the subjects of the article.
    I will keep this boy and his family in my prayers.
    I would like to donate to his family and would like more information on how to go about it .

  3. Christine Borders on October 17th, 2016 9:56 pm

    Courtney, wonderful research and article. I will be praying for the family.

  4. Karla Chandler on October 19th, 2016 8:33 pm

    Thank you for writing an article about Alex and his fight. This was a well-written story explaining a tough subject. Good job!

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