Detroit Lakes teen diagnosed with  luekemia puts  barber on mission  to brighten his day

By Barbie Porter


Katie Schiller wanted to coax her long-time client Ethan Swiers to her salon. The plan was to tell the 14-year-old boy that he won a prize.  

His mom, Kerry Swiers, thought her son might catch on that something was up. So, instead she decided to tell him his barber had a new hair design that he needed to see.

“Ethan is a big football fan and his team is the Saints because of Drew Brees,” Kerry said. “He had asked her to work on a Saints design for him. So, if I told him that he wouldn’t be anticipating anything.”

While the owner of Schiller’s House, a new salon in Detroit Lakes, is working on a Saints design, the real intent was to give her customer a lot of cash.

“I met Ethan about a year ago and thought he was the coolest kid I’ve ever met,” Katie said. “He is a hard worker, helps at his family’s store, kindhearted and has three younger brothers that he is a great older brother too. This summer he found out he had leukemia.”

“I felt bad for him and wanted to do something,” she said. 

She considered shaving her head if he had to shave his due to effects of chemo. Then the idea of auctioning off the first cut at her new salon came up. When Katie pitched the idea to Ethan’s mother, Kerry wasn’t surprised.

“Katie has a big heart, so I wasn’t shocked she came up with that idea, but I was humbled that she would think my son is worthy of her putting in all that effort to give to a child that is not hers,” Kerry said.  

With parental approval, Katie made a post on social media just before Christmas. The post explained the auction and where the proceeds will go. 

“Ethan is not a social media person,” his mother said, adding all who read the post were asked to keep quiet as the fundraiser was a surprise.

In five days more than $1,000 was raised. The actual amount wasn’t known quiet yet as the cosmetologist with many clients in the Frazee area kept the box sealed at the reception desk. 

Katie only knows the amount is more than $1,000 because In Line Motion offered to match any donation up to $500, and when that word got out a auction bid for $500 showed up.

The money has no strings attached or agenda. It will simply be for Ethan to spend on what he wants. 

“He needed brightening in his life,” Katie said. “I’m grateful for the community support for this.  I was blown away by how many responded.”

Diagnosis started 

with a rash

Ethan developed a rash on his leg, which progressively got thicker and moved to his chest. A family member, who is a nurse, said COVID-19 in children has been reported to look like the rash that the 14-year-old had. The doctor agreed it could be a virus working its way out of the body, but blood work was taken for further testing. 

“Three hours later I get a call telling me my son has leukemia,” Kerry said, noting that was Aug. 17. 

She explained leukemia doesn’t have stages like most cancers. The blood cancer  hinders the body’s ability to fight infection and some people see a slow-growing form while for others it is more aggressive. For aggressive leukemias, treatment includes chemotherapy that’s sometimes followed by radiation and stem-cell transplant. 

Kerry said the chemo treatments were prescribed to eradicate the bad cells from her son’s blood. 

“It is an intensive chemo and it is a long road, but he is responding to it well,” Kerry said. “His last treatment, if all goes well, will be Dec. 4, 2022.”

The doctors also prescribe a new plan every 58 days so the body doesn’t become tolerate to chemotherapy, she said.

  If the treatments work, there is a good chance when he goes for his last in 2022 that he will have a long life and not have to deal with leukemia again. 

“It’s not a 100 percent guarantee though,” Kerry added. “But, Ethan is doing phenomenal. I want to thank people for their encouragement and outpouring of support. It really warms my heart to know there is an army of supporters out there for him. I appreciate that.”