Connor Weckwerth is winning the fight against cancer
In many respects, Connor Weckwerth is a normal 7-year-old. In other respects, he is not, meaning he is faced with health issues that many his age never see.
Connor, a first grader at Blooming Prairie Elementary School, was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor last June. It is called Medulloblastoma stage four.
“It was either get it out by surgery or lose him,” said Connor’s mother April O’Connor, who resides with Connor and another son Garrett, 12, at an Austin address in Newry Township.
April had just completed two years of schooling at Riverland Community College in Austin early last summer when she noticed something wasn’t quite right with Connor. He previously had experienced constant ear infections and was diagnosed with ADH issues. ADH constantly regulates and balances the amount of water in your blood.
Describing his personality, April lovingly said, “Connor is a goofball from day one; he has the biggest heart and silliest sense of humor. He is a joy in life.”
As his mother fielded questions from this journalist about Connor’s fight with cancer, Connor growled across a table at his mother’s best friend Amy Svoboda, who also is fighting a bout with lymphoma. “Amy and Connor have this love-hate relationship,” April related.
Amy, in remission with her cancer, is one of the main organizers of the benefit for Connor. She and April are close friends, and are only a day apart in age.
The first signs something was wrong with Connor came when he couldn’t keep food down and times when he fought dizzy spells. Connor was taken to an Austin hospital four times and “no sufficient answers” were gained, April said.
Connor was then taken to Rochester and quickly diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. Surgery was quickly arranged for St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester. “He never complained of headaches,” his mother reports.
Surgery last June 27 lasted six hours, with doctors saying they removed the tumor near the brain stem and “got all of the cancer,” April said. “There’s no detectable cancer in his body,” she added.
Family was told that Connor might not talk or walk soon after surgery. “Connor woke up just fine and was yelling at me for eating his sandwich, which I did not do,” April laughs.
Connor was brought home on Independence Day. “We plan to have a big party on the 4th of July this year,” April said.
“Connor loves barbecues,” she said.
Connor spends every other weekend with his father Milo, who tries to make as many doctor appointments as possible. April and Milo have been divorced for three years. “We get along for what is best for Connor,” April says. She always has Connor’s bag packed for a possible return trip to the hospital.
Connor underwent 33 radiation treatments of Proton Beam and finished them last September. Super Heroes including The Hulk, Patriot Iron Man and Batman helped Connor celebrate his graduation from treatments at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester.
Three rounds of chemotherapy treatment remain for Connor. He will be finished in June. April said the challenge now is to get Connor to his optimum weight. He currently uses a feeding tube. Doctors have said Connor’s odds of the cancer not recurring are in his favor at 80 percent.
He returned to school last September, but his attendance has been sporadic because he is on a special Medical 5604 plan, his mother says. “We will catch him up next year,” she said.
When Connor comes to the Blooming Prairie Elementary School, fellow students shout, “Connor’s here,” his mother said.
“He has lots of friends,” she proudly adds. Connor especially likes to see Principal Chris Staloch show up on Mondays for reading celebrations as a Super Hero.
Connor loves to play with his cousin Bradley, age 5, and his friend Levi, 7. Connor just turned seven on Jan. 8 and went bowling and played laser tag on his birthday. With the help of his mom, Connor also made his own birthday cake, a triple layer brownie cake with cherry vanilla frosting. He also enjoyed sloppy joes. Pizza and tacos are favorites of his, too.
Connor is a fan of Monopoly. When asked how good he is at the game, Connor frowns and says, “Are you questioning the king?” His mother said Connor loves the Classic Monopoly game and often pleads his young age when playing, asking to be forgiven money owed on property. “I’m just a kid,” he tells his fellow players.
Connor’s favorite acquisitions in Monopoly are the oranges because he can ask $1,000 rent for his hotels. A second table is set up in the living room just for Connor’s Monopoly game.
“He’s an active 7-year-old and loves to play guns and fighting with swords,” says April.
The challenges continue in recovery, but Connor has dealt well with the loss of hair and with the need for leg braces. The braces keep his ankles and feet stable, and enabled him to discard the wheel chair early in recovery, his mother pointed out.
During the past year April has worked on her parents’ (Mike and Beverly) farm. “I plan to find a job when Connor’s healthy,” she said.
Help Connor Weckwerth fight cancer
It will be a special afternoon Sunday, March 20, for Connor Weckwerth when his family and friends sponsor a benefit from 1-5 p.m. at the Geneva Community Center, 410 SE 1st Ave.
Friends and family are invited to enjoy an afternoon of food and a time to bid on some very attractive items at both a live auction and silent auction.
The benefit is directed toward Connor’s family living expenses. Connor is a 7-year-old boy who was diagnosed with brain cancer in June 2015. He underwent six hours of surgery, 33 tradition treatments and is currently going through 44 weeks of chemotherapy.
“Connor has an amazing spirit and brings joy and a smile to all,” says his mother April O’Connor and his father Milo Weckwerth. Connor also has a brother Garrett, 12.
A meal is planned, including pulled pork sandwiches, beans, potato salad, chips and kids’ hot dogs. Freewill donations will be accepted.
Auction items already include:
• Minnesota Twins baseball tickets, courtesy of KROC Television
• Snowmobile jacket
• Fire pit ring
• Hand-knit items
• Homemade quilts
• Rocking horse and rocking truck donated Ryan (Junior) Johnson of Ellendale
• 40-inch TV donated by Sorenson’s Appliances and Krejci Ford
• Homemade pies
• Homemade apple crisp cheesecake made by April O’Connor. (“It’s massive and I hope it draws a high price,” said April. “Maybe $10 million,” joked Connor.)
Face painting will be offered for the kids.
A major organizer for Connor’s Fight Benefit is Amy Svoboda, a very close friend of April. Amy was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer one month before Connor was diagnosed with brain cancer in June of 2015. Amy’s cancer is currently in remission.
Donations are still welcome and can be sent to Farmers & Merchants State Bank at 245 E. Main Street, P.O. Box 277, Blooming Prairie, MN 55917.
If interested in helping out, please contact Amy Svoboda at 507-456-6761.
Organizers ask that no donations contain peanuts or tree nuts because of allergies. “If someone opened a peanut butter jar in a room, I would have to leave,” said April, who has a peanut allergy.
Benefit organizers express thanks in advance for those who are helping. “The Blooming Prairie Cancer Group has been fantastic,” April said. She said she plans to donate a wheel chair Connor used to the Cancer Group.
Proceeds from the benefit will be used for family living expenses and expenses relative to travel for treatment.