as told by his mom, Charlene.
Ryan has always had a zest for life. His smile is infectious. He enthusiastically played sports from a very early age – baseball in the summers and hockey in the winters. He played tough positions. As a defenceman, he protected others on his hockey team, but catching was his true passion out on the diamond.
Ryan was living the dream of any normal teenager. He had lots of friends, had just gotten his driver’s licence, was a dedicated athlete, and had just met a beautiful girl, Emily. Little did he – or any of us – know how his life was about to change.
It was during training for the 2015 baseball season that we first knew something was not right. Ryan became very weak, almost passing out after a few swings of the bat during a training session. He tried to pass it off as dehydration, but he had been unusually tired and not eating well for a few weeks. Mother’s instinct told me it was time to investigate.
Thinking he had mono, we were off to our family doctor who ordered tests and then sent us off to see a local paediatrician. On January 16, 2015, right after Ryan had gone for his first job interview, we got the call. Test results indicated that Ryan had leukaemia (ALL).
Words will never be enough to describe the feeling of being told that your child has cancer. This wasn’t possible. Not our Ryan.
We were told to pack for a week and headed to London Health Sciences Centre the next morning. His brothers and sister-in-law followed. It wasn’t until 42 days later that we were able to come home to Windsor.
Many, many days were spent in hospital, both in London and in Windsor over the next year. If it weren’t for the support of family, our friends, the Brennan community and the doctors and nurses who became family, I don’t know how we would have gotten through this time.
Organizations such as Childcan, POGO, Ronald McDonald House, and the Canadian Cancer Society made such a difference in our lives. I still remember when Renee from Childcan visited in the hospital, bringing many gifts to help relieve some of the financial burdens. I felt like I was in a dream. Childcan provided gift cards, a cozy quilt, meal vouchers and parking passes. They even reimbursed us for our costs for accommodations for our family the first night in London. But most of all, Renee’s compassion is what we remember the most. She knows what this journey is all about . . . she has lived it.
Ryan has been amazing. He’s so mature. Even in the toughest of times, his personality always came though. He made a hobby of teasing his favourite nurses and joking with doctors and staff on the 6th floor and PMDU. He has overcome many challenges along the way, but he takes it in stride.
It has definitely changed him, but he doesn’t allow cancer to define him.