Meg Spartz and her son, Jeff, who was diagnosed with leukemia at 3 months old.

Minnesota family battles baby boy’s cancer

February 21, 2019

Meg Spartz has made it through the last year taking things 15 minutes at a time. It’s become her motto and has helped her cope through each devastating moment, knowing that in just a quarter of an hour, things might not seem quite so bleak.

  • She hears the words, “Your baby has leukemia.” Her 3-month-old son, Jeff, isn’t even crawling yet. The news is unimaginable. 15 minutes.
  • In less than a day, Jeff starts treatment at Sanford Children’s Castle of Care in Sioux Falls. Meg keeps thinking she’ll wake up from this nightmare. 15 minutes.
  • The family learns Jeff is one of fewer than 100 infants nationwide to receive this diagnosis annually. The rarity of his disease means not as much is known about how to treat him and prevent reoccurrence. 15 minutes.
  • While Meg’s husband, Chad, starts commuting back and forth from their home in Brewster, Minn., Meg finds herself living at the Castle full-time. Being away from her husband, five other children and the rest of her family and friends weighs heavily on her and Jeff. 15 minutes.
  • The steroids and chemotherapy take a heavy toll on Jeff, and at times, the smiley little boy Meg knows so well disappears. 15 minutes.
  • On his first birthday, Jeff finally gets to come home after 236 days in the Castle. His inpatient chemotherapy is finished, but he still has a year left of treatment. Even then, Jeff’s cancer has a 50 percent chance of coming back. 15 minutes.

These are just a handful of the unbearable moments Meg and her family have faced over the past year since Jeff’s unbelievable diagnosis.

Through it all, Meg has looked to a strong group of friends and family, including Jeff’s caregivers at the Castle. She credits Jeff’s oncology team, the nurses, Child Life Specialists, social workers, security guards, receptionists and even the people who brought her breakfast or cleaned the hallway for helping her make it through.

“We are so fortunate because our team is amazing,” Meg said. “You just know that everyone’s working together to do the best for him.”

Without their support, Meg can’t imagine where they would be today. Making it this far through Jeff’s treatment feels like a miracle.

“When I think of a miracle, I think of something that defies the odds, something that really probably doesn’t usually happen,” Meg said. “That’s definitely where we’re at with Jeff.”

Although Jeff will need regular checkups for the rest of his life, the family hopes to see their little boy cancer-free by February 2020.


Be a hero for local kids

From the moment Jeff was diagnosed with leukemia, Sanford Children’s Cure Kids Cancer and its many generous donors have been with the Spartz family every step of the way. Here are just a few of the ways donors have made a difference in Jeff’s cancer journey:

  • Funding advanced training, cutting-edge equipment and more to help the region’s only pediatric oncologists give Jeff the expert care he needed. Despite the rarity of infant acute lymphoblastic leukemia, oncologist Dr. Sam Milanovich had a clear roadmap and treatment plan within 12 hours of Jeff’s diagnosis.
  • Supporting the Child Life Specialists who helped keep Jeff smiling even on some of the toughest days. They also helped his five older siblings understand and cope with their brother’s diagnosis.
  • Providing direct family assistance, including meal vouchers to make sure Meg and Chad could eat nutritious food during Jeff’s 236 days in the hospital, and travel vouchers to help Chad get back and forth from the family’s home an hour away.

“On February 19, we didn’t need this support, but on February 20, we needed it,” Meg said. “Please donate, because it could be your child, your grandchild, your neighbor.”

Jeff is now halfway through his two-year treatment. Please consider making a gift today to help kick off the fundraising efforts for the radiothon. Every gift will stay local to help more kids like Jeff be victorious over cancer.