Leukemia strikes an Ohio County family a second time

Photo by Greg Eans, Messenger-Inquirer | geans@messenger-inquirer.com Shelly Sommer sits with her triplets Xavier, left, Logan, and Shelby Jae, on the porch at their home on Tuesday in rural Hartford.

Shelly Sommer thought she was over the hump.

Her son Xavier was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in early 2017. He was more than halfway finished with about four years of treatment when the Hartford woman received more bad news.

Xavier's identical twin brother, Logan, was diagnosed in July with the same form of leukemia.

Xavier and Logan, 6, are two parts of a threesome. Their sister Shelby-Jae rounds out the set of triplets. She is their fraternal sibling.

"There was a 25% greater risk for Logan that your average child," Sommer said.

But it had been more than two years since Xavier's diagnosis, so she hoped they were in the clear.

When Logan woke her one night this summer with severe leg cramps and back pain, she didn't think about leukemia.

She took Logan to the Ohio County Healthcare. Emergency department personnel thought he was having muscle spasms and sent him home.

The next night, Logan's condition worsened. Sommer drove him to Owensboro Health Regional Hospital. Once there, doctors transferred him to Norton Children's Hospital in Louisville.

An MRI of his hip and bone marrow came back abnormal. Later, a bone marrow biopsy confirmed it was leukemia.

"They are identical twins," Sommer said. "So why did Xavier get sick at 4 and Logan at 6? And their symptoms presented so differently."

Xavier experienced cold-like symptoms, pale skin and blood in his stool.

Cancer -- even for one child, let alone two -- has changed everything at the Sommer household.

The triplets have health insurance that pays for treatments, but there's the expense of weekly trips to Louisville. Sommer estimates it costs about $300 a week.

Logan will be in treatment more than three years, barring any delays.

Xavier's weekly treatments are now reduced to once a month. Sommer expects him to complete his medical regimen at the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021.

Because of Logan's recent diagnosis, doctors now test Shelby-Jae monthly. That will continue for the next year.

Xavier is repeating kindergarten because his illness has caused him to miss so much school.

Logan is expected to miss most of this school year. A teacher comes to the house twice a week.

Shelby-Jae feels left out most the time, Sommer said. "She once said she wished she had cancer because her brothers get all the attention."

Sommer is self-employed as a database administrator. If she doesn't work, she receives no pay. There are no sick days, no paid vacations.

"I work as much as I can. If I'm not working, I'm spending time with (Xavier and Logan)," Sommer said.

Finally, Sommer's marriage to the kids' dad, Jason Sommer, recently ended.

Right now, she's able to meet her family's basic needs, but nothing more.

After Logan's diagnosis, Shelly Sommer started a GoFundMe page to help with the expense of frequent trips to Louisville for her sons' treatments. Anyone wishing to donate may do so online at GoFundMe.com/twinstrong.

"I thought I was over the hump," she said. "Then, we started all over again."

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

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