Celebrating your 17th birthday is normally a joyous time, but when it has to be done right before your chemo treatments, it just doesn't seem right.
Welcome to the life of Will Ohler.
He is a junior at Lindbergh High School. Many his age are thinking about a party or a game. But, Will has had thoughts about death.
“Plenty of times. It's always in your head like I can die from this,” he said.
Ohler is a strapping 6'2” 210-pound goalie. He has matinee good looks and highlight film ability. When Ohler wasn't playing for his high school, he was playing select ball for Lou Fusz.
He would travel the country and perform in front of college coaches.
“He's used to doing interviews. He is used to talking to coaches,” his mom, Tamara Oliver said. “We'd go to a tournament and he'd have a dozen coaches come up and talk to him. He is used to coaches sitting behind him while he's playing games, taking notes and taking video.”
Instead of enjoying the recruitment of being a big time Division One athlete, Ohler was diagnosed with Leukemia. On May 18, his world was rocked.
He asked his mom if he had done anything wrong to cause the disease. She sobbed, “No, you didn't.”
The battle began.
This was more than a game. This was more than pushing your body through sprints. This was chemo for 47 days in a 61-day period. This was getting 115 shots in his legs. This was 3000 pills. This was 16 surgeries. This was being hospitalized 5 times. This was almost dying twice right in front of his mom of anaphylactic shock.
Oliver described the horrifying moment, “He turned bright red from head to toe. He stood up and violently started vomiting. His eyes swelled shut. He couldn't talk. You could hear him kicking and thrashing about.”
However, Ohler's attitude would not be broken. Dr. Rob Hanson from Mercy described his condition.
“When he was diagnosed, his bone marrow was essentially completely replaced by Leukemia cells. There were virtually no normal cells. But when he walks into the office on a day that he is sick and his counts are down and he's not feeling well he said, 'Hey everybody your day just got better. I am here.'”
There is always laughter in the room. The nurses are not supposed to play favorites, but they tend to gravitate towards Wil. Wil makes sure all the kids in the Cancer Unit are smiling. He will often play balloon soccer with them.
Ohler said, “It helps to play with the little guys.”
His courage is starting to be recognized. Saturday morning at the Coaches vs Cancer breakfast, Ohler was honored. He got out of wheelchair and delivered a stirring 10-minute speech. He received two standing ovations and got back in his wheelchair and went home. He spent the rest of the weekend throwing up. However, a few days later, he was up and moving and even kicking a soccer ball.
Ohler's immediate goal of getting that scholarship has been put on hold. The Leukemia has delayed the process. It won't end it though. Dr. Hanson expects a full recovery.
It may take 3 or 4 years but Ohler will live.
Leukemia free one day. He will make incredible saves. He will be back.