By JOAN McCOY
Leader staff writer
Tanner Varnadore, a first-grader at Magness Creek Elementary in Cabot, has battled acute lymphocytic leukemia for three of his six years.
He’s never really known life without a port for the drugs he gets every month to keep the cancer at bay.
This summer, his family was hopeful that he had been cured but tests at the end of July showed that not only was the cancer no longer in remission, it was more aggressive than before.
Now, his only hope for a normal life is a bone marrow transplant in December at a hospital in Texas. But his family needs help from the community to cover expenses during the four or five months he and his mother will have to stay in Texas.
A family friend, Phil Taylor, is organizing a catfish dinner on Tuesday, Oct. 2 at the Cabot Junior High North cafeteria to raise money for the trip.
Tickets are $10 each for catfish and chicken strips with all the usual side dishes prepared by Crossroads Café and Catering.
Dinner will be served from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Local singers including Glen and Leigh Pool and Tiffany Taylor, daughter of Arkansas Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, will perform.
The event will also include a silent auction. So far the items to be auctioned include a shotgun with case, floral arrangements, a children’s party with a space walk and balloons, golf at Greystone including the cart and two duck hunting trips to DeWitt.
Kathy Thomas, Tanner’s maternal grandmother, says Tanner has always been a good sport about the treatments he must have to survive.
“He doesn’t cry. He likes his doctor and he has a favorite nurse at Arkansas Children’s Hospital,” she said.
During the times when his immune system is so compromised from the chemo drugs that he can’t be around other people, even his younger and older brother, he plays alone.
Thomas said she hopes the guests at the dinner will include some of the soldiers from the local armory. Tanner loves playing with his collection of plastic soldiers and he would be thrilled to spend time with real ones.
The cancer returned just weeks before school started. Tanner enrolled, but he doesn’t go to school. His teacher comes to him three days a week.
His treatment in Texas will begin as soon as a bone marrow donor is found and a bed is available. And as soon as possible after the treatment, he will start his school work again so he doesn’t fall behind.
“He’s smart,” his grandmother said. “He’s like a sponge. Anything you tell him, he just gets it.”
All tickets must be sold by Sept. 28. Donations for the auction are needed. For more information or tickets, call 501-454-9184, 501-454-8564 or 501-743-1321.