Fundraiser to help 6th-grade teacher diagnosed with leukemia

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Todd and Liz Ramsbottom, pictured with their three children, Ryan, Jake, and Anna, said that humor keeps them going. | Submitted

How to help

What: “Let’s Turn It Around for Todd Fundraiser” will help Todd Ramsbottom’s family offset expenses related to his leukemia treatment. The event will include a silent auction, 50-50 raffle, and several local stores (Jamba Juice and Cookie Crumb Cupcakes) donating the profits from sales.

When: 3 to 6 p.m. April 13

Where: Naperville Women’s Club, 14 S. Washington St., Naperville

For more information: Contact Gilliam Brooks at or Rob Hunt at

Web: To make a donation and track Todd’s progress, visit

Mail donations to: Todd and Liz Ramsbottom, 645 Vista Drive, Oswego, IL 60543

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It was supposed to be just another January weekend. Todd and Liz Ramsbottom had celebrated the birthdays of their two sons, Ryan and Jake. Monday would roll around and Todd would return to his usual routine, teaching sixth grade at Lincoln Junior High in Naperville.

But a backache changed everything.

A backache that turned into a fever, thought to be a virus. Within a week, life had completely changed for Todd, a 1994 Naperville North High School graduate, with a diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).

In six weeks, Todd, 36, went from a life filled with competitive swimming, triathlons, coaching football and wrestling at Lincoln, and spending as much time at home on the floor playing with his three children to one that involves chemotherapy, an upcoming bone morrow transplant and an uncertain future.

“I’m not the type of person to get sick,” he said from Loyola Hospital where he was receiving a round of chemo. “I kept thinking, next week, next week I’ll be back (at school).”

Instead, he is enduring a series of chemo treatments, all steps that lead to the bone marrow transplant. The chemo is administered twice a day, with 12-hour breaks, over several days in a week. The Ramsbottoms travel home to Oswego from Loyola to be with their children, Anna, 6, Ryan, 5, and Jake, 3, as much as possible. Liz, 31, is a stay-at-home mom. Her parents, who still work, have moved into their house to help. The expenses involved — driving 80 miles round trip, eating out and daycare — are mounting.

“Todd is at a high risk of relapse without a bone marrow transplant,” said Dr. Scott E. Smith, Todd’s hematologist and medical oncologist at Loyola.

According to Smith, AML is the result of abnormal chromosomes. While the leukemia is not genetically passed through generations, it is a genetic abnormality, and without the bone marrow transplant, people generally stand only a 20 percent chance of survival in three to five years. However, with the transplant, those chances more than double to at least 50 percent. Smith added that, because Todd’s leukemia is in its early stages of diagnosis, there is much they can’t predict until after the transplant.

A bone marrow transplant is considered standard treatment for this type of leukemia and Todd’s older brother Scott, 39, has matched as a donor; their older sister Wendy also tested but did not match.

“There’s a one-in-four chance that any full sibling will be a suitable donor,” Smith said. “The more siblings you have, the higher the chance.”

Full siblings are generally the only family members tested for matches because of the genetics they share from their mutual parents.

Once the transplant is complete, the tricky part is keeping Todd from infections and viruses. He will be isolated for 100 days at the hospital and then in a Loyola-approved hotel where he will not have any physical contact with his children.

“It’s not a boy-in-the-bubble-type thing but it’s as close as it gets,” Smith said of the hotel setting that is sterilized as much as possible.

“It’s going to be hard,” Todd said.

“We don’t know what’s in store for us,” Liz said. “There’s more risk of recurrence (with this genetic type of leukemia). We’re six weeks in and just look at each other. It doesn’t feel like it describes Todd.”

The Ramsbottoms do not know when Todd will return to teaching. So they cling to each other and laugh.

“We use our sense of humor and positive attitude to get through the day,” Liz said. “There is nothing like a good laugh.”

“The good thing about Todd and Liz is that they have such a positive mental attitude,” Smith said. “They want to move forward (with treatment).”