Cycle for Survival: Landon’s Story

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) —  It is soon time to pump the pedals to raise money for cancer research. It’s called “Cycle for Survival – The Crush Cancer Campaign,” and it has a pretty special meaning here at WAVY-TV.

10 On Your Side has actually turned the event into a friendly competition that benefits some special children.

We introduce you to a 12-year-old boy who has been battling cancer since before he can remember. This is Landon’s story, and the words “give up” are not in his vocabulary, but these words are brave, resilient, appreciative, loving and strong willed.

Cycle for Survival 2017 | Landon vs. Andy

For 12 years, Landon’s mother, Jillian Sanderl — who is a single mom — has been doing all she can to save her son.

“His spirit and the fight he shows every day and the courage he shows every day, is something I strive to find in myself,” Jillian said. “He gives me the faith to keep moving on, and to hold hope and to keep on fighting. He has never once given up, so I refuse to, too.”

Landon’s battle with cancer began when he was 10-months-old in 2005.  He was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. The first signs were headaches and violent vomiting.

For 10 years, the tumor was stable, which means it was not growing until the heartbreaking summer of 2015. An MRI scan showed the tumor had doubled in size and was inoperable. Today, Landon only gets radiation.

Landon’s story is about faith, hope, and fighting back.

On Tuesday, WAVY’s Andy Fox went looking for Landon Sanderl, who is a sixth grader at Lynnhaven Middle School.

While visiting Landon in Patti Simon’s sixth grade math class, Andy quickly learned he is not smarter than a sixth grader with fractions and pies, and Landon? Well, he’s pretty good at this.

“When I counted those two and I got a five, so I realized two more would equal 10 over one.”

The teacher responded, “And that is another way to do it. That is excellent, because you have a method that works, and you want to stick with that… Who had the same answer as Landon?  Put the answer on your boards.”

Landon thought outside the box to get the same answer with his own plan. He smiles with confidence as Ms. Simons says that.

Landon is proud, smart and on the honor roll.

“Landon is the most upbeat happy person you would ever want to meet,” Simons said. “He walks in class and he is cheerful, and he is ready to work. He doesn’t want to leave, and he can always keep up with the rest of the class academically.”

Athletically is a different story. Landon can only participate in no-contact sports due to the shunt in his head. The shunt drains fluid from his brain to a tube in his abdominal cavity.

Landon has lived with cancer longer than he can remember.

“The first time I ever had [cancer], I was 10-months-old.”

Landon is beloved by his mother, and Jillian’s parents are known fondly as Nonni and Pop-Pop. He has a new baby half brother, and a new stepdad. Landon says, “The real people who are protective of me is my family, especially my mom.”

Landon never complains, but during long hospital stays he wonders, “I wonder like when I am in the middle of it… It’s like, ‘Why am I the only one that has to be like this?” After a long pause he looks up and says, “You know what I mean?”

Landon is wise beyond his years, and we know what he means. He has a ton of support at Lynnhaven Middle School, where his classmates are all on board to crush cancer.

Landon’s friends know that Landon and Andy are in a friendly competition to see who can raise the most money to Crush Cancer, and Landon has a sign which reads, “I promise to beat Andy.” His friends chant, “Beat Andy! Beat Andy!”

You can join the Crush Cancer Campaign by going online. Contribute to the Crush Cancer Campaign and get a team together to Cycle for Survival at One Life Fitness on May 7.  Remember, 100 percent of all money raised goes towards cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering  Hospital.

Jillian Sanderl, Landon’s mother, on her son’s history with cancer:

Diagnosed with malignant Anaplastic Ependymoma brain tumor at 10-months-old. Had multiple brain surgeries and seven rounds of maximum dose chemotherapy followed by a stem cell rescue. He was then diagnosed with cervical instability (pinching of the spinal cord at the top of his neck) caused by his multiple surgeries. They were unable to correct the instability with surgery because that would make it so he would no longer be able to have MRI scans due to the metal that would have had to be placed. Over the next few years, his spine corrected itself as he grew. MRI scans to check on the tumor went from once a month, to once every three months, to once every six months, to once a year.  For 10 years his tumor stayed stable, meaning it did not change for a decade. Summer of 2015, his scan came back showing the tumor had almost doubled in size. He had a tumor resection in Tennessee at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, where they removed as much tumor as possible. He then went through six weeks of proton radiation treatments at Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute followed by metronymic chemotherapy, which he is still currently on. Since radiation, his tumor continues to spread to a point where it is now inoperable and not able to be receive proton radiation again because of its location. Through the ups and downs, the one thing that stays constant is Landon’s fighting spirit. He inspires me daily and reminds me to stay appreciative of what I have been blessed with.”

— Jillian Sanderl, Landon’s mom