Benefit Sunday for boy with leukemia

MOOERS When Rhonda Cushings son complained of a stomachache, the source of it was the furthest thing from her mind. It was June 2, a Monday, recalled Rhonda. I got a call from the nurses office at his school saying Ryley had a stomachache. I picked him up and brought him back to the doctors office where I work. I just thought he was faking to get out of a test. When he arrived there, however, Ryley was examined and believed to have appendicitis. He was sent to the hospital to have some blood work performed, where it was found his blood platelet level was extremely low. An examination by an emergency room doctor found Ryleys spleen was enlarged and not long after, a medical team from Vermont Children's Hospital in Burlington was on its way to take Ryley back to Vermont for further examination. The entire course of events, which took place within a day, ended with Rhonda learning Ryley might have what she never expected leukemia. This was totally out of the blue, said Rhonda. I had no idea what it meant. We were just totally stunned. I mean, all of a sudden were in Burlington getting more tests and its confirmed he has leukemia. The diagnosis was one Rhonda and her husband, Thomas, werent sure how to handle. They initially didnt tell Ryley of the seriousness of the situation until a few days later, said Rhonda. He obviously knew something was wrong, because he was over in Burlington, she said. Finally, we had to tell him. Ryley took the news hard at first, she said, but he soon demonstrated tremendous courage for a boy his age. Its almost like hes completely grown up in a month. Hes been so brave, said Rhonda. What has helped comfort the Cushings is the diagnosis itself. Ryley was diagnosed with the very early stages of acute lymphocytic leukemia, one of the least aggressive forms of the disease, said Rhonda. Its a good kind of cancer if youre going to have cancer, she said. Its treatable and the prognosis is very good. That part is very comforting to us. The trade-off Ryley has had to live with since his diagnosis is a once active athletic life, filled with baseball, soccer and basketball, to taking things easy as he undergoes routine chemotherapy treatments. Through it all, however, the support of his friends has meant a lot to him, Rhonda said. A few weeks ago, he and his friends had a head-shaving party. That way, when Ryley begins to lose his hair, he wont really notice; he doesnt have to see it come out. It was really great of them. Ryleys friends and family will come together again for him this Sunday as a day-long benefit is held in his honor at the Mooers Volunteer Fire Department, 2508 U.S. Route 11. The benefit will begin with an all-you-can-eat breakfast from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., consisting of ham, sausage, pancakes, French toast, eggs, juice and coffee. The cost for the meal is $7 for adults, $5 for children ages 5-12 and free for children younger than 5. Raffles will be held during the breakfast, with prizes such as a golf bag, sterling silver bracelet and a $100 gas card. A bicycle rally will follow, with registration at 1 p.m. The $4 cost of admission includes a leukemia awareness bracelet and balloon. It would make Ryley very happy to see his friends from school and for everyone to show him theyre rooting for him, said Rhonda. Our whole community has been so great already, asking what they can do. It means so much to us. Those who are unable to attend the benefit but would still like to make a donation may do so by sending contributions in care of the Ryley Cushing Benefit Fund to Michelle Guay, 164 Herrick Road, Mooers N.Y. 12958. For more information about Ryley's progress, visit the Web site established in his honor at www.caringbridge.org/visit/ryleycushing. To learn more about the benefit, contact Guay at 236-4421 or Charlene Decoste at 236-9597.

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