Aggressive chemotherapy began soon after cancer was discovered in March


On March 9, Tayler Passow bowled 13 games as part of the Wisconsin All Star Challenge.

She finished five pins out of fifth place, a good finish considering the competition.

It was an even better finish considering she had one lung working, 13% use of her heart and was one week from death.

On March 12, Tayler went to urgent care because she was having trouble breathing. Her mom thought she might need an inhaler for allergies or asthma. In less than 24 hours, Tayler was diagnosed with cancer—stage 4 primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma—and was undergoing treatment.

On Thursday night, Tayler walked across the stage with more than 440 other seniors as part of the Craig High School graduation ceremony. While it was a big moment for all the students, Tayler’s presence was a testimony to her toughness.

The type of cancer grows quickly. By the time doctors caught it, a tumor had half surrounded her heart, and one of her lungs wasn’t working. The tumor was putting pressure on the arteries and vessels surrounding her heart.

“The doctors said that if we had waited another week, she would have been dead,” said her mom, Tricia O’Flanagan

Because it was so far advanced, doctors recommended accelerating the treatment schedule and giving her want amounted to an adult dose of chemotherapy.

Here’s what that amounted to: Six rounds of 120 hours of chemotherapy. That’s chemotherapy five days straight every 21 days.

On Thursday morning, she was getting her blood drawn by a home nurse. In an hour she would be going to graduation practice. And in another few hours, she would be heading to the graduation ceremony at Monterey Stadium.

On Friday morning, it’s back to the Children’s Hospital at the University of Wisconsin Hospital for another five days of chemotherapy.

How does an 18-year-old get through such an ordeal?

“She says her blood type is B-positive, and so that’s going to be her motto,” O’Flanagan said.

Christal Lippincott, who taught Tayler chemistry last school year, said she always had a happy disposition.

“She’s such a joy to be around,” Lippincott said. “She’s got a good spirit and doesn’t give up.”

Her AP biology teacher, Charles Kealy, described her in almost the same way.

“She’s happy, optimistic, positive,” Kealy said.

Tayler liked school. She’d arrive in Kealy’s classroom early so she could feed Deborah, the classroom’s fish.

When she was at University Hospital, Kealy wanted to bring her a fish, but that’s not something allowed in an oncology department.

“We really missed her this spring,” Kealy said.

Tayler credits her teachers, including Kealy, Lippincott, Michelle Meier, Jennifer Hake and others, with helping her get through the tough time.

But more than that, it was her mom who got her through, Tayler said.

During those first nights in the hospital, Tayler had to sleep sitting up because she couldn’t breathe. Tayler sat up in the recliner. Her mom sat up in the bed. Then they propped two pillows between their heads, leaned against each other and finally were able to get some healing rest.

A sign in the living room of their home says, “A good mom makes your day. A great mom makes your whole life.”