Bloomington, Illinois – MAY 31, 2018 – Preparing to take a family selfie in October 2017 led to Normal Community West High School student Austin Waller needing treatment for cancer. As the Wallers – mom Amy, dad Scott, daughter Alicia, and son Austin, who will be a junior this fall, closed in for the photo, Scott felt a bump on Austin’s collar bone as he proceeded to hug him. That prompted the Wallers to go to their family Nurse Practitioner the next day.

Upon seeing the bump and taking scans of it, the Nurse Practitioner told the Wallers, “It’s cancer.” A lymphoma more specifically, and ordered Austin and the family who went with him for the initial exam to go immediately to St. Jude Cancer Research Hospital in Peoria for further tests.

After tests were done, doctors at St. Jude admitted Austin for additional tests and blood work. Another couple days went by at which point the physicians wanted to begin chemotherapy. Their diagnosis: Austin had Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in his chest around his breathing muscles and heart. Chemotherapy needed to begin right away, the doctors said.

Austin’s chemotherapy took place for seven days a month for the next two months. Then, for the next two months after that, he had chemo for four days each month. That was followed by a month of radiation treatments in the Chicago area. Austin and the Wallers are currently awaiting his next appointment at St. Jude next month to see where the treatment goes from here.

The treatments he received caused Austin to miss time at school, Amy Waller said. She added the family is appreciative and thankful for the support it received from Normal Community West High School helping him stay current with his studies during his illness.

In addition, Austin also missed out on social activities, as well – namely half of his bowling season. He is in a recreational bowling league at Pheasant Lanes in Bloomington which takes place on Saturday mornings. But once doctors gave him approval to resume normal activities and his chemotherapy sessions were scheduled — including a Saturday –, Austin asked doctors if he could have the Saturday session at 4a.m. That would give him time to get to bowl at 9a.m. The doctors granted his request.

“That’s how much he likes to bowl, and he’d been bowling with the same group for quite a few years,” Amy Waller said about her son.

The Wallers have had a history with Relay For Life of McLean County dating back to when Amy was carrying both her children – she marched as part of a Relay team
headed by Deb O’Connell, Deb’s Mardi Gras Marchers. O’Connell lost her battle with the disease in 2009.

“We are happy to have Austin represent us as our Honorary Youth Survivor,” said Catina Struble, Event Lead for Relay For Life of McLean County. “He showed both courage and poise in his dealing with the disease. His desire to continue normal activities even while going through treatment is a sign of his resiliency – something we believe all those affected by this disease show every day.”

RELAY 2018 START TIME MOVES TO 2P. M. FRIDAY: In addition to a new location, the start time for this year’s Relay has been moved up to Friday afternoon at 2p.m. which will include a “soft” opening at that time where team members can begin circling the course at that time, Wright explained. She said a formal opening ceremony will take place sometime after working hours that day – something else that is a change from previous Relay For Life of McLean County events. The Survivor Walk, which honors current cancer survivors, will follow the formal opening ceremony.

YOUTH ACTIVITIES TO TAKE PLACE BOTH DAYS: This year, Relay For Life of McLean County will “have youth activities for kids to enjoy on both Friday and Saturday,” Wright added.

RELAY 2017 NUMBERS: Relay For Life of McLean County wrapped up it 23rd annual event raising $300,786.47 at the conclusion of the 2017 event and had 70 teams comprised of 657 participants, and 220 survivors and caregivers at their annual Relay event, held from 4p.m.June 23 to 4p.m. June 254, 2017, at Normal Community High School.

Since it began in McLean County in 1994, Relay For Life of McLean County has raised over $8.3 Million to fight cancer.

LEARN MORE ABOUT RELAY 2018: Find out more about getting involved with Relay For Life of McLean County. You can find a link to our Relay by visiting

More information may be obtained by contacting either Catina Struble 309-706-5367 or Steve Robinson at 309-242-7838.

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