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BP graduate fights brain cancer

brothers with cancer, Medulloblastoma, blooming prairie, Weckwerth
Brothers Garrett, left, and Connor Weckwerth share something beyond their sibling connection—they have both had the same type of brain cancer. Connor, 13, was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was 6 years old while Garrett, 18, got the diagnosis just weeks before graduating from high school in May. Staff photo by Rick Bussler
Brothers share the same condition 7 years apart
By
Rick Bussler, Publisher
“It’s so rare… I would have never thought this could happen.”
-April Weckwerth, Boys Fighting Cancer

For Garrett Weckwerth, senior skip day this past spring took place somewhere he never envisioned—in the hospital battling cancer. 

While his classmates were participating in drive your tractor to school day, Garrett was undergoing brain surgery to remove a cancerous brain tumor.

Just a few weeks before graduating from Blooming Prairie in May, Garrett found he had a brain tumor called Medulloblastoma. 

To add to the irony of the situation, it’s the same brain cancer that Garrett’s younger brother, Connor, battled when he was 6 years old.

“It’s so rare,” said their mother, April O’Connor. “I would have never thought this could happen.”

And the doctor didn’t either.

While at the Mayo Clinic in the beginning of May for Connor’s annual checkup, April asked the doctor what the chances were that Garrett could have the same thing happening? The doctor stated the chances were so small he wouldn’t worry about it. 

Fortunately, April persisted when she had begun noticing that something was drastically wrong with her son. “There were massive behavioral changes. He was refusing to do jobs on the farm and being totally defiant,” April said, adding it was hard to figure out what was happening. “I thought it was senioritis and that he just wanted independence.”

April described Garrett’s condition as having “a headache for two months that didn’t go away.”

Fighting a constant headache, Garrett admits he was angry. “I tried to beat up an Oak tree,” he said, noting he didn’t get very far with that venture.

On May 19, Garrett finally agreed to go to the ER in Rochester and was diagnosed. Initially he wanted to wait until after graduation to have surgery to remove the tumor, and that was the plan, until one day while driving to school, Garrett began noticing that passing vehicles were blurry. “I thought it could have been my glasses, maybe needed a different prescription,” he said. 

By the time fourth hour rolled around, Garrett couldn’t see the white board in school. He sent his mother a message noting “my vision is going.” 

April went to school and immediately took Garrett to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester where they performed a CT scan and discovered that the tumor had grown significantly in five days. Surgery was scheduled immediately for May 27. On June 3, seven days after brain surgery, Garrett walked the stage and graduated with his class, many in the gym that day were in tears over his strength and determination.

“He said he was walking (at graduation) one way or another,” April said. 

And he did. 

 

The same doctor has now treated both brothers with Garrett having a mass on the right side of his brain and Connor who had a tumor in the middle of his brain stem. Connor’s condition was potentially worse as his mother said if they had waited two more days back in 2015, they would have lost him. 

Garrett is currently undergoing radiation and chemotherapy five days a week for six weeks. He willthen be able to stay home for four weeks to recuperate before continuing with six rounds of maintenance chemotherapy that will consist of three days inpatient at St. Marys Hospital receiving constant chemotherapy and then six weeks home again to heal, per round. If past experiences with Connor’s timeline prove true, this could take between 12-18 months to complete treatments. 

It has all derailed Garrett’s plans, at least for now, to go into auto mechanics at Riverland College in Albert Lea.

“It’s on hold until I’m done with all of this,” said Garrett. 

The toughest part for Garrett right now is dealing with his cancer treatments. “It makes you feel like you want to throw up 24/7,” he said. “I get a whiff of the burning sensation (from radiation) and my body reacts.”

Radiation has also left him feeling tired. “The second I lay down, I don’t want to get up,” he said. 

Both parents, April and father Milo Weckwerth, have had a difficult time processing what’s happening the boys. “You’re not supposed to go through this with one child, let alone two kids,” she said. “It’s a lot to take in.”

She finds it ironic how six months ago Garrett argued with her about taking a year off to work before attending College. “He got a year off now,” April said, adding it was not what either one of them had in mind.

Once Garrett gets past the radiation treatments and kicks cancer, he plans to work with his grandfather, Michael O’Connor, on the farm or at an auto mechanic shop. Garrett said he loves helping with farm work, especially working on equipment and cleaning out grain bins. 

Garrett loves to tinker around with cars and hopes to get enough energy in the coming months to work on restoring his truck. 

As for Connor, his cancer has been kept at bay. He has an MRI done every year. 

If having both boys fight cancer has taught her anything, April says she knows what to expect now with Garrett going down the same path.  

“I don’t know if it’s better or worse, but I know what questions to ask,” she said. 

Faith has also played a key role in this ordeal for the family. 

“I pray a lot,” April says. 

Looking at Garrett, April said: “You have a lot of people praying for you.”

 

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