Rhinelander teen facing the fight of her life
Life can change in the blink of an eye, and no one knows that better than Leanna Kossack.
Before October, this 17-year-old Rhinelander High School junior was working at Dairy Queen, spending time with friends and family, and enjoying her newly-gained driving privileges. But all that came to a halt when she started having back problems. Her mother, Jaimie, took her to a doctor, never thinking it was anything more than a pulled muscle or sprain.
But when Leanna continued to experience more pain, and then lost feeling in her right leg, extensive tests were performed and the outcome was devastating. “They found a tumor wrapped around the bottom of Leanna’s spine,” said Jaimie. “It was inoperable because nerves were going through it.”
In addition, the tumor, called a sarcoma, is very rare and doctors at UW-Madison Children’s Hospital, don’t have any idea how to treat it. “They are all puzzled by it,” said Jaimie. “One doctor even told me to take her home and make memories.”
But Jaimie and Leanna aren’t ready to give up the fight. Currently, the teenager is going through extensive radiation and chemotherapy treatments that will last until Christmas. This is an aggressive protocol and Leanna has treatments every day of the week except Saturday and Sunday. The tumor is a fast-growing one, and even though the medicine Leanna receives is potent, the latest news the family received is that it is not working. “The doctors have been consulting with top sarcoma teams across the United States to decide what our next course of treatment should be,” said Jaimie.
This has been a rough road for the family. Jaimie stays with Leanna during the week in Madison leaving her family, which includes six other children and her fiance, in Rhinelander. Jaimie and Leanna stay at the Ronald McDonald House in Madison during the week. If Leanna feels well enough, Jaimie brings her back to Rhinelander for the weekend. But the teen is in so much pain when she sits or walks that she has to travel on a mattress that Jaimie has rigged up in the back of her van. “Watching your child in so much pain is just horrible,” said Jaimie. “It just breaks your heart.”
And while the emotional toll of Leanna’s illness is hard enough, the financial aspects are unimaginable. “Some of the medicine that Leanna is taking is not covered by insurance,” said Jaimie. “There is gas money to get back and forth from Madison, I’ve had to go part-time at my job…it’s just all adding up very fast.”
In addition, many of the treatments the doctors are exploring aren’t covered by insurance. Soon Jaimie will have to make a decision as to where to go to get a treatment that can save Leanna, but with funds running low, it is hard to plan.
The family has set up the Leanna Kossack Sarcoma Foundation, hoping for donations, not only to help with costs in Leanna’s case, but with other children who will be diagnosed with this rare type of cancer in the future. “We need to raise $50,000 for her treatment at a clinic out of state that offers some hope,” said Jaimie. “I would also like to have volunteers help me organize a benefit for Leanna. Anything will help.”
Note: Donations may be mailed to Jaimie Kossack, P.O. Box 433, Rhinelander, WI 54501. For more information, call Jaimie at (715) 550-0707 or email [email protected]