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Despite missing an eye, A.J. boy finds joy through silliness [East Valley Tribune (Mesa, Ariz.) :: ]
[August 17, 2014]

Despite missing an eye, A.J. boy finds joy through silliness [East Valley Tribune (Mesa, Ariz.) :: ]

(Tribune (Mesa, AZ) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 17--The individual elements of this article are sad onions. It's about a kiddo, still just 6 years old, who has spent most of his life undergoing cancer treatments and receiving his wish from Make-A-Wish America. His vision is irreparably damaged, as he lost one eye due to the treatment.

This would be a rather depressing scenario if the boy in question, young Apache Junction resident Logan Wisneski, wasn't such a goofy young lad, the kind who doesn't really care that his left eye socket is consistently filled with an impermanent solution. It's not as if he's the only person with cancer who exhibits insouciance toward his or her condition, but he serves as a reminder the darkness of life is sometimes invaded by light and levity.

Surviving the cancer treatment Logan's father Robert, who works for the city of Mesa's IT department, provides the background as the boy bounces about his grandmother's house on a Friday morning. Logan's journey through treatment commenced with a diagnosis of bilateral retinoblastoma, which starts at the back of the eye and spreads from there. Retinoblastoma is the most common type of eye cancer a child can receive, according to the American Cancer Society.

"When we were looking into his eye, his pupils were red," Robert said of the first time the family noticed the issue.

A few days later, Logan's eye began to twitch, and the official diagnosis was one eye with cancer and the other containing three tumors in the other eye. The diagnosis led to a trip to California for chemotherapy treatment, which led to a few complications by itself. Logan came down with a blood infection, and spent 30 days in the hospital due to two infections.

On the whole, he underwent 40 surgeries and procedures during his five-year treatment, and even became accustomed to the chemotherapy treatment to the point where he could watch doctors and nurses put the needle in his arm without crying.

Calling it a tough stretch for the family undersells the horror of watching a child undergo those perils. Robert said he cried a little the day the diagnosis came in, but added the key to getting through everything was following into the routine created through the treatments. It's akin to the one-day-at-a-time idea: Following the pattern created by the frequent appointments and other scheduling necessities forges a sense of normality about the process.

"It's just keeping busy is how I coped with it," he said.

Lasting effects Things are under control now, although the ramifications of that many treatments arise every day for Logan, including an increase in the risk in a cancer diagnosis in the future, as well as a weakened immune system.

The most obvious is the fake acrylic eye he puts in to fill the void in his left socket. The eye itself isn't completely round as a person would expect based on movies and cartoons; rather, it's a shell akin to a contact lens that is just about as easy to misplace as the vision implement. Robert said his son has lost the replacement shell on the bus before, and the false eye has a tendency to become dirty, although that's due to the wearer's age and activity level.

While it is difficult to notice the eye isn't real on first glance -- even Robert has difficulty figuring out which is which -- it's evident when Logan tries to scan a room and the iris doesn't move along with his right eye. And the vision problems Logan has extend beyond having that fake eye.

"When he's looking left or right or down, he's always seeing some black. It's like a shadow in his eye," Robert said.

Brightness from the boy Fortunately, the family received a large amount of support from their friends and other agencies, including the $6,000 his coworkers from the city raised through a barbecue fundraiser to aid in the increasing cost for treatment. The family, including brothers Robert and Deven, also got to take a Nickelodeon cruise from Make-A-Wish America, which included a tour of the engine room and engagement with a few characters like SpongeBob and Dora the Explorer.

"They had him doing things every day," Robert said.

Asking Logan to name the thing he favored most about that experience was a fool's errand; his focus was better spent on a round of Minecraft on his grandmother's computer. There's apparently a zombie in his midst; an objective to kill the undead being transitions into a request for Logan to find his "zombie friend." His focus goes haywire when he steps away from the computer and engages with the guests around him. The kid has a habit for breaking into dance in a fashion akin to a set of seizures than anything Baryshnikov would teach.

Logan likes to shake, as well as run around a room yelling "I'm turbo" before switching into zombie mode and showcasing the pink gap where his eye used to be. He also spent a few moments attempting to hop on the back of the teenage photographer trying to take his picture.

He's the reason why an article about a boy who has had cancer doesn't become a requiem to abandoned dreams. He's the type of boy who'll pop that eye out at school and walk around scaring his classmates, or say, create a Halloween costume that incorporates the missing space in his face. It involves a gummy eye, a little fake blood dripping down the corners of his eye, and frequent queries as to the location of his missing eye.

Logan is the kind of kid who, amid his reenactment of a Tasmanian Devil cartoon, will stop to dole out a hug.

"He's our boy," Robert said.

Contact writer: (480) 898-5647 or Follow him on Twitter at @EricMungenast ___ (c)2014 East Valley Tribune (Mesa, Ariz.) Visit East Valley Tribune (Mesa, Ariz.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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