Team Bright Side
January 1st 2013 I heard the words that no parent should ever hear, “Your child has cancer”. In an instant those four words changed my family’s life forever. My son, Ryan, was ultimately diagnosed, at the age of 7, with High Risk Pre-B ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia), a blood cancer that impacts about 2,900 children representing 35% of all types of childhood cancer. The #1 disease killer of our precious children. He is now a teenager and very fortunate to be considered a survivor.
To become a survivor, he endured three and a half years of treatment and over 1,722 admissions of 14 different types of chemotherapy, some of which were literally gallons of chemo. He had 10 hospital admissions for a total of 40 nights. So many trips to the ER I lost count. Three surgeries. Three bone marrow aspirations. Three anaphylaxis allergic reactions including one that landed us in the ICU. 30 spinal taps. Nineteen blood transfusions. Chemical meningitis and two relapse scares. That is the reality. It is simply so hard to watch your child go through such a brutal treatment plan. You feel so helpless and yet so grateful for all the parents, researchers, doctors, nurses and kids who have been fighting this battle before Ryan.
I needed an outlet…an outlet that allowed me to feel like I was making a difference and had some sort of control on a journey where there is so little. I decided to do something personally hard for me to honor the struggle that my son was facing. I formed a small team and we signed up to do the 2013 Chicago Triathlon.
We call ourselves “Team Bright Side”. The name of the team came from one of the most valuable lessons my son has taught me. Ryan has faced a lot of hard times conquering his chemo treatment plan, but through all the challenges he has faced he always says, “the good thing is”. Even in some very dark moments Ryan can somehow always find the bright side. With his spirit in mind our team was formed and the momentum continues to builds. In the last six years we have trained over 420 athletes, built a kids triathlon team and raised over $1,000,000.
All of our fundraising to date has gone to the cutting edge of pediatric cancer research. This includes immunotherapy and being a part of the first ever FDA approved treatment that uses a patient’s own genetically modified cells to attack the cancer- a true breakthrough.
You see today’s treatment plan for kids like Ryan is three and a half years long, chemo based, and brutal. That plan works 80% of the time. However, it does not work for everyone and of those children that do survive two out of every three experience life threatening side effects.
We simply have to do better. Together we are making a dent in the universe. Together we are truly saving lives.