Fundraiser set for daughter Siena, 10 months, diagnosed with leukemia
By Rachel Kytonen
A family vacation to southwest Florida in March has forever changed the lives of one local family.
While on vacation, Ben and Becky Wolcyn’s 10-month-old daughter, Siena, was diagnosed with leukemia. Further testing at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis revealed she has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). Only 200 infants are diagnosed with ALL each year in the United States.
“We had been in Florida for eight days, and we were getting ready to head back home to Cambridge and celebrate our daughter Avery’s birthday, who was turning 3,” Ben explained. “Siena began not feeling well, but we waited to see what would happen. The next day she took a turn for the worse, so we brought her in. The first clinic we took her to wouldn’t accept our insurance, and the second clinic was only for emergency patients. While at the second clinic, a nurse told us about another ER QuickCare down the road, so we went there. The doctor told us Siena’s spleen was enlarged, and he took a blood test. He told us she had leukemia. We were in shock.”
A fundraiser to help support the Wolcyn family will be held Tuesday, April 24, from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Cambridge Culver’s, where 10 percent of all sales will be given to the family.
Ben, a 2001 graduate of Cambridge-Isanti High School and owner of Wolcyn’s Tree Farms & Nursery, appreciated the doctor’s honesty at the ER QuickCare.
“The doctor came in and told us ‘the bad news is your daughter has leukemia,’” Ben said. “‘But the good news is medication has come a long way in the past 40 years and your daughter has a good chance of doing well.’”
After the diagnosis at the ER QuickCare on March 11, Siena was rushed by ambulance to the children’s hospital in Fort Meyers. The doctors at Fort Meyers confirmed the original diagnosis, and administered a blood transfusion. On March 13, Siena was stable enough to be transported by private plane to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, where she has been ever since.
“Siena is doing well considering the circumstances,” Ben said. “She’s not really taking a ‘why me?’ attitude with all this. She’s fortunate to have two parents who love her and stand behind her. We have seen a lot of kids who don’t have the support Siena has, and we are trusting in God that he has a plan for her life. We have seen a lot of people touched by her story, but it has been a hard road.”
At Children’s in Minneapolis, Ben explained he and Becky met with social workers regarding living arrangements since Siena would have to remain at the hospital. They were temporarily put up at the Sheraton, but nothing permanent had been arranged.
While the family was eating dinner at the Ronald McDonald house, the last night they were able to stay at the Sheraton, an employee with the Carlson Hotel Group heard their story and said she would see what she could do to help.
“It had probably been a week since we heard from her, so we had given up, but then she called,” Ben said. “She told us she had arranged for us to stay at the Radisson in Roseville. When we arrived at the Radisson the general manager met with us, and there was a huge gift basket waiting for us in our room with coloring books, toys and snacks. We were overwhelmed and just started crying. A lot of blessings have come out of this situation.”
Ben explained his entire family is grateful for the support they’ve gotten from their friends, family and community. He explained Becky’s mother, a registered nurse who lives in Duluth, has taken a leave of absence so she can stay with Siena at Children’s. Employees at Becky’s place of work, Antea Group, have also donated a lot of vacation time to her so she can be with Siena as much as possible.
Before her diagnosis, Siena had been a good baby, and she was healthy for most of her young life.
“Siena has always been a tough girl,” Ben said. “She’s playful, always smiling, and tries to keep up with her older sister. She’s been handling the medication and hospital stuff as well as she can.”
Ben explained Siena is on a two-year treatment plan, Ben said. Later this week she is expected to finish her first round of treatment, which lasted 36 days, and be able to come home for a few days. She will then be back in the hospital for her second phase of treatment expected to take four weeks, but she may be able to be at home for a while depending on her overall health. Her third phase of treatment will last about three weeks, which Ben estimated will wrap up around mid-June.
Because ALL in infants is so rare, the Children’s Oncology Group, consisting of more than 200 hospitals, pools their knowledge together when it comes to treating ALL in infants.
“Siena is only the second person to go through the newest chemotherapy program offered by Children’s,” Ben explained.
Ben said the doctors have told him that 50 to 60 percent of children with leukemia will never relapse again after their treatment, and will go on to have a normal life.
“Obviously with an infant the risks are higher, but we are optimistic,” Ben said. “We serve a big God and his will be done on this.”
Throughout this journey, the Wolcyns have relied on their faith, and especially the support they’ve received from their home congregation at North Isanti Baptist Church.
“We are firm believers that God has a plan—without that, we wouldn’t make it through the day,” Ben said. “He’s using people in good ways to support us, and he’s present with us.”
To follow Siena’s journey, visit her CaringBridge page at www.caringbridge.org/visit/sienawolcyn. If you would like to make a financial donation, checks can be mailed to Siena Wolcyn, c/o Wolcyn Tree Farms & Nursery, 4542 Hwy. 95 NW, Cambridge, MN 55008.