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Community support grows for student

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By Judy Halone-The Courier-Herald

Matthew Yantzer's family attributed his stomach pains to the flu; so did emergency room physicians. But soon a fever that spiked to 104 degrees warranted a follow-up trip to his pediatrician.

Then the news came.

“The doctor did a finger poke, and within three days (of visiting the ER) his blood count had changed. She told me, ‘He needs to be seen by an oncologist within 24 hours,'” his mother, Lynn Yantzer said. “When I heard the word, ‘leukemia,' I knew it was cancer.”

Oncologists diagnosed Matthew, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Mountain View Middle School in Bonney Lake, with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) on Oct. 25. “They admitted him right away,” she said. “It's the most common type of leukemia you can have.”

Her son's treatments started the next day. “He's had to have three blood transfusions to boost his immunity up to fight infections,” she said. Complicating the treatment is a rare chromosome he carries, known as the Philadelphia Chromosome; its occurrence is found in less than 4 percent of patients with his type of cancer, Lynn Yantzer said. “If he didn't have the chromosome, he'd be doing fantastic.”

In need of a miracle, Matthew's family underwent bone marrow testing. His mom and dad, Steve Yantzer, tested negative. But the prospects for a healthy future brightened after results from his 9-year-old sister Nicole's test returned positive. “We found out Thursday that she's a positive match,” Lynn Yantzer said. “It's very rare - there's only a 1 to 4 percent chance of having a sibling match.”

The Yantzer's expect the bone marrow transplant to take place after his strength and immunities have returned, “sometime around Christmas,” Steve Yantzer said. In the meantime, the support the family has received has been nothing less than “fantastic,” he said, noting that Matthew's Boy Scout Troop No. 595 has offered to help with his Eagle Scout project. “Everyone has been so amazingly supportive,” he said.

That support has also been extended by the Sumner School District. “They're being wonderful,” Lynn Yantzer said. “They already have a tutor set up for him. Because of the severity of his condition, he will be out of school for the entire school year - and as of the time of diagnosis, he had three As and three Bs.”

Lynn Yantzer, who is on a leave of absence from her job as a Sumner School District bus driver, is amazed at the extended support given by her co-workers and fellow district employees. “Mountain View Middle School is hosting a blood drive in honor of Matt, and more than 50 people have already signed up for it,” she said. That number is expected to grow as the word spreads.

Puget Sound Blood Services will provide two buses for the event, to take place from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at the school. “It's going to be quite the drive,” Lynn Yantzer said.

The community's efforts - and his diagnosis - are not lost on Matthew.

“I'm not mad that I have cancer,” Matthew Yantzer said. “I'm just glad there are doctors and that they can help me.”

To contact the Yantzer family, visit Matthew's Web site at www.matthewyantzer.blogspot.com or send an e-mail to matthew.yantzer@gmail.com.

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