Community invited to join Marlee's battle

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Beldenville couple Josie and James Erlandson noticed their 19-month-old daughter, Marlee, had an irritation on her right eye near the end of April.

"People were telling me that it looked like a bug bite or that she hit her head," Josie said. "Allergies was another one because it's that time of year."

Josie didn't subscribe to these notions, believing there might be something else going on.

Her fears were confirmed when Marlee was at day care, where another parent, who is a veterinarian, spoke up.

"She had commented on saying we should get her in," Josie said.

The Erlandsons went to the Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing. Josie hoped for an antibiotic, but doctors feared the worst, that something behind Marlee's eye was pushing her right eye out of the socket, and referred them to Mayo Clinic.

The Erlandsons packed up to go the 63 miles to Rochester, hoping their fears and questions would be answered. They met with an opthamologist, who told the Erlandsons not only was there a tumor present, but it was a rare form of cancer called alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma.

"They said alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma only affects four out of a million people," Josie said. "A year."

The Erlandsons met with an oncologist and a senior oncologist who specializes in rhabdomyosarcoma, who have created a treatment plan for Marlee that includes a year of chemotherapy, plus radiation for five weeks.

Keeping a level of normalcy inside the family is a priority, making sure Marlee stays calm throughout the process.

"She doesn't know anything is going on," Josie said. "She doesn't like the hospital, but she doesn't know anything's wrong. We just try to stay as normal as we can. For her I guess."

On thinking about his child, James said "You lose a lot of sleep over it" trying to reconcile why his child has to go through this.

There will be a fundraiser noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 20, at GasLite Bar & Grill, Ellsworth.

The Erlandsons have set up a gofundme page: www.gofundme.com/marlee-may-fights-cancer to help with their medical bills.