Ryder’s Family Gives Back After He Conquered Medulloblastoma
In seven whirlwind months, Ryder was diagnosed with medulloblastoma; had brain surgery, chemotherapy and stem cell transplants; and entered remission. Then his family decided it was time to give back.
“I wasn’t a cancer parent—until I was.”
These are the words of Kristin Oliver, whose son Ryder was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor called a medulloblastoma when he was 5 years old.
“No one ever thinks their child or family can get cancer,” Kristin continues. “You read stories and pray for other kids who are suffering from this horrible disease, and you think it wouldn’t happen ever to you. But when it does, you have a whole different perspective.”
Choosing Children’s for treatment
After Ryder complained for 10 days about headaches, Kristin and her husband, Chad, decided to take him to a hospital near their hometown in Macon, Ga. During an MRI, doctors discovered the golf ball-size tumor in the back right side of his brain.
“When you live an hour and a half away from the best of the best, you know to go there. We knew Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta was where we needed to be,” Kristin says. “Macon has one pediatric neurosurgeon, and Children’s has a whole team. It’s better to have a team.”
Ryder was taken by helicopter to Children’s and admitted into the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s. He had brain surgery on March 28, 2018, to remove the tumor. Less than a month later, Ryder had a central line placed in his chest and a G-tube placed in his stomach. Ryder’s chemotherapy treatments began on April 28, 2018.
Six rounds of chemotherapy were followed by three successful stem cell transplants, and on Oct. 12, 2018, Ryder rang the bell, a milestone that signifies his completion of treatments. It was a quick journey from diagnosis to remission, but it wasn’t always easy.
“They told us that if everything went by the books and treatment didn’t have to be delayed for any reason, he would be done in that time frame,” Kristin says. “He had no setbacks. But I still can’t decide if it was the longest year of my life or the fastest.”
Ryder, who loves superheroes, dinosaurs and bugs, is in remission and isn’t on any medication. He will have to have regular scans for the rest of his life to monitor his progress following surgery and treatment.
Supporting other families
It wasn’t until Ryder began his cancer journey that the Oliver family began to consider how they could support the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. “I think it’s of utmost importance for families to support other families and give when you can,” says Kristin. The Olivers did this by commemorating the one-year anniversary of Ryder’s diagnosis with an eye to helping other families: They hosted a blood drive and T-shirt sale at their restaurant in central Georgia to benefit cancer research at Children’s. Their drive collected 22 units of blood, and friends and family donated blood in Florida and Illinois, too.
“So many people poured out their hearts and time for us during Ryder’s hospitalizations, and we wanted to do something to give back,” concludes Kristin. The family plans to make their blood drive an annual event.
A world-class cancer treatment center right here in Atlanta
For 25 years, the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has been one of the leading childhood cancer programs in the country, both providing leading care and researching possible cures.See How