Two-year-old granddaughter of area couple undergoing treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Nalla Billmeyer

The past three months for two-year-old Nalla Billmeyer of Clermont and her family have been a rollercoaster of emotions filled with scary, frustrating lows and victorious highs of all degrees. Just over a month after celebrating her second birthday, the daughter of Allan and Jessica Billmeyer of Clermont and granddaughter of Steve and Kelli McKee of Harpers Ferry was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
Nalla has the distinction of being born December 12, 2012 (12/12/12) and the further distinction of having her name be the same as her father's, but in reverse. But those are just some of the things that have proven to set this two-year-old fighter apart from other children her age.
January 9 of this year she started running very high fevers with no other symptoms, and after nine days of her fevers slowly getting higher and higher, she was taken to urgent care, where preliminary tests revealed nothing and her family was advised to follow up with her regular doctor. The next day she was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection, but after a few days on antibiotics and having her fever finally break, Nalla had what was described as a seizure and was transported to a La Crosse, WI hospital, where she was kept overnight for observation and her family was told she, instead, had a breath-holding spell, did not have a urinary tract infection, and should stop the antibiotics treatment.
Within the next two days, Nalla's fever returned even higher than before, and another trip to her local doctor resulted in a urinalysis and blood work before being sent home to await results. Before Nalla's family could even unload her from the car after her doctor visit and return trip home, a call was received with results from that day's blood work, and her parents were ordered to take her back to La Crosse to see a pediatric oncologist.
A bone marrow biopsy January 27 revealed a diagnosis the next day of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Nalla spent the next ten days in the hospital undergoing spinal taps, bone marrow biopsies, blood and platelet transfusions and rounds of chemotherapy. She also had surgery to place a long-term port into her chest for further treatment.
Steroids used as part of her treatment process also resulted in increased appetite, mood swings and Nalla having no interest in walking or even playing. A daily regiment of six medications on top of her chemotherapy affected her muscles and bones, making it impossible to get off the floor on her own or even walk some days, in addition to loss of her hair. "From having an otherwise healthy child, it was heartbreaking to not see your usually happy toddler not smile or laugh for over three weeks," the family shared.
With her treatment severely compromising her immune system, Nalla is still unable to go anywhere with large crowds, such as grocery stores, restaurants, daycare, or family functions. The family wasn't allowed to clip her fingernails or put earrings in her ears and had to use a special toothbrush to help prevent infections that could be life threatening. The family has had to use gloves to change her diapers and give her a bath, having to sanitize the bathtub.
With that initial induction portion of her treatment now behind her, Nalla is currently taking a pill form of chemotherapy every day at home, and no longer being on the steroid treatment has allowed her to return to her playful ways with her big brother, Trevor.
The hardships of Nalla's treatment process all finally proved their worth when the family was recently told that her acute lymphoblastic leukemia is in remission. Although far from over, with more than two years of continued chemotherapy treatment looming in the future, the road Nalla is traveling is at least now beginning and returning home. "We have a new baseline for normal," her family explained. "We are taking things day by day and enjoying having our little fighter home and smiling again."
A local benefit event for Nalla and her family has been scheduled for Saturday, April 25 at Missfitz Bar & Grill in Harpers Ferry, beginning at 11 a.m. and including food, raffles and drawings, bean bag and horseshoe tournaments, DJ entertainment and a live auction. Proceeds from the event will be used to help the family pay for medical and other ongoing expenses associated with Nalla's treatment. For additional information, watch for the benefit event advertisement to be printed in next week's issue of The Standard.
Anyone wishing to contribute to the benefit event may contact Heidi at 563-568-8602, Tonya at 563-329-0342, Kelli at 563-379-4888 or Steve at 563-379-1723. An account has also been set up for donations at Kerndt Brothers Bank entitled Allan & Jessica Billmeyer Prayers for Nalla.