MIDDLEBURY — Though 15-year old Will Mishler had a cancerous tumor removed over a year ago, a cloud of uncertainty continues to hover over the teen and his family.
Will found out in September he had ganglioneuroblastoma, a form of nerve cancer, which was removed in September 2012.
Though the cancer hasn’t spread, Will’s mother, Amy Mishler, was quick to explain that the Northridge freshman has not returned to normal and is by no means out of the woods.
“(The doctors) have never told Will he is cancer-free,” Mishler said by phone. She said there is usually about a five-year waiting period of no recurrence before doctors deem a patient cancer-free.
Will recently returned from a Kids Wish Network trip to Universal Studios in Florida, where he got to meet members of the Blue Man Group.
“It was like the first time the kid smiled in 13 months,” Mishler said of the trip.
But while the trip was a high point for the teen, returning home means continued testing and a further battle with a myriad of ailments.
Will continues to suffer from multiple disorders as a result of the tumor and its removal because it had been attached to the sympathetic nerve.
“He’s had so many health complications,” Mishler said.
The first issue came in the form of Horner’s syndrome in his right eye, which is characterized by a difference in pupil size and a drooping eyelid.
He had an operation in Muncie in August to help correct the eyelid, but the pupil issue is not resolved.
Then in February, the teen’s pancreas failed and he became diabetic.
One positive from that situation is that Will is scheduled to receive a device dubbed an artificial pancreas that will help him more accurately and efficiently attend to blood sugar issues as they arise.
While the device will certainly make things easier for Will, the procedure will be costly.
On top of all that, Will’s doctors have advised him to return for scans in December to investigate an enlarged lymph node in his neck.
Financial going for the family has been hard.
Coupled with the fact that Will’s mother had to leave her nursing position to care for her son and father Jim’s unemployment, covering medical expenses has been trying.
They moved to a different house to decrease some cost, but with the battery of tests and scans Will continues to undergo, as well as with the related illnesses and procedures, the Mishlers’ medical bills continue to climb.
“We’ve definitely had to rejuggle our lifestyle,” Mishler added.
Getting word out about her son’s plight has been a frustration for Amy Mishler.
Childhood cancer has been very visible in the area with the story of Elkhart teen Sarah Crane and the #SARAHSTRONG campaign gaining significant local and even national, awareness.
Mishler said her son is aware of Sarah but the two have never met.
She said Will and the family have discussed the Cranes’ situation and Will understands that there is a possibility his cancer could reappear.
“Our family does pray for (Sarah),” Mishler explained, but noted Sarah’s disease concerns her even more for her son.
“You’re preparing for something you never want to walk into,” she said. “There’s a possibility of (a reappearance) happening to your child.”
But Will’s mother points to a maturity built through a strong faith that keeps her son going, even through the toughest of days.
“Will is very faithful, Will is a very dedicated Christian, and he will tell you that,” she said. “That’s probably what gets him through.”
And so it goes for the whole family that is facing so much uncertainty. In the midst of a trying time, the Mishlers lean on the comfort of God and one another.
“We’re grateful that we have each other,” Amy Mishler said.
There are two upcoming events to raise funds for Will and the Mishlers to combat their medical costs.
The first is an all-you-can-eat pancake and sausage breakfast taking place Saturday, Oct. 19, at Crystal Valley Missionary Church, 233 U.S. 20 in Middlebury. The donation-only event will be from 8 to 11 a.m.
A second fundraiser called H.O.W.L. Fest is scheduled for Nov. 9 at the Elkhart Knights of Columbus. Open only to individuals 21 years and older, the event will feature a disc jockey, cash bar and raffle.
Further information on the events, and updates on Will’s fight, can be found on the Facebook page Willpower, which can be found through a Facebook search.