I Will Never Stop Playing Ball

Memorial Day weekend in May 2008 is when my journey began.  A baseball injury brought me to the hospital for an X-ray, but I was told I had cancer instead.  I spent the next 10 days in the hospital and I missed the play-off games for my T-ball team.  I didn’t want to miss any games or have leukemia, but I was glad to find out why my legs hurt so badly.  I thought it was because I was an awesome baseball player...but I was wrong.

I wasn't scared when I found out I had cancer because my mom had just gone through cancer treatments for Hodgkins Lymphoma, but I was worried about not being able to play baseball.  The treatment plan for Leukemia is 3 1/2 year and I was very sensitive to sun light and heat.   Since we live in Texas I did not play baseball in the spring of 2009 because it was too hot, but started again in the fall of 2009 when it was cooler even though I was still receiving treatments.

Things were going great.  We had gotten into a routine with my chemotherapy and I was feeling good.  I was 18-months into my treatment plan and ready to play Spring baseball.  I signed up for tryouts and oiled my glove, I was ready to play.  Unfortunately on the same day of the tryouts, I learned that I had a central nervous system (“CNS”) relapse of my leukemia.  Due to this relapse, I was switched to a much more aggressive and intensive treatment regimen, which was expected to last approximately 2 years (I had already been in treatment for 18-months).  

The new treatment plan included frequent hospitalizations, many more clinic visits, and eventually radiation therapy to the brain.  Because of the intensity of the therapy, there was also a much greater likelihood of serious and potentially life threatening complication

But I still wanted to play ball, so my mom worked it out with the league and not knowing whether I would be able to play a single game or the whole season, “Coach Syptak” wanted me on his team and I couldn’t wait to start playing again.  We were the Pirates that season.  My mom and Dr. Dreyer were great, they would plan my blood work and chemotherapy treatments around my baseball schedule as much as possible, and if I had a game coming up, they would test my blood to see if I needed a blood transfusion before my game so that I could play.  

As a result, I made every practice and was able to play the entire season, except for two games when I was in the hospital.  There were even times when I would get ready for my game at the hospital and go straight from receiving chemotherapy to playing baseball.  I was very luckily because Dr. Dreyer is a huge baseball fan.

I played baseball the following fall and again in the spring of 2011 and this time, my Dad was my coach.  It was awesome!  My team was the “Astros” and we came in second place that season, and I was selected to play on the ODC's All-Stars team.  What was even better, on my final "planned hospital treatment" which was also the day of my 8th birthday, Dr. Dreyer brought some surprise visitors to see me: Chris Johnson, Brett Wallace, Angel Sanchez, and Matt Downs from the Houston Astros baseball team.  

They all signed my Astros hat and took a picture with me, and gave me a signed baseball hat from Roy Oswalt.  It was awesome and a great birthday present.

Unfortunately, two days  before Christmas in 2011, I relapsed once again.   My treatments have been going on for over 3 ½ years and I only had 30 weeks of treatments to go, and I couldn't wait because once they were done I could have my port-a-cath removed from my chest and be able to play some real baseball, but right after the holidays, my mom gave me he bad news.  The Leukemia was back and we were going to have to start all over, but this time I would need a bone marrow transplant because the chemotherapy was not working. This time I was scared!  We were down to our last treatment option and my mom, who had been by my side for the last 3 1/2 years, was diagnosed with Breast cancer on the same day she found out I had to have a bone marrow transplant.

I went back on Chemotherapy until the Leukemia was back in remission and got my bone marrow transplant on March 30, 2012.  I was expected to stay in the hospital 4 to 6 weeks post transplant, but instead I spent the next 8 months in the hospital.  It was hard!  I made many new friends on the BMT floor since we were there for so long.  Several got to go home and we would see them on occasion when they would get admitted for a short stays and we would have movies nights in the game room.  

During the 8 months I was in the hospital, they would occasionally release me thinking I would do ok at home.  On one of these short periods of time, I got to do something very special.  I got to go to a Houston Texans football practice and meet J.J. Watt, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, Matt Schaub, and Coach Kubiak.  Andre Johnson even gave me his practice gloves!!  It was a great but I was back in the hospital 2 days later.

I had a couple of set-backs and I had to go back into the hospital for a couple of months but finally got out right before the 2012 Holiday season.  It's had been six years since my last hospital visit and I am thankful for that, except my mom made go to school.  

I'm getting stronger everyday and despite going into a coma for six days during Christmas 2014, I was able to play baseball for the fall 2015 season.  My team was the Astro's and although I didn't make any super-star plays this season (except for the behind the back, as the ball is flying into the foul zone, 3rd base catch), my team won the championship.  Go Astro's!  

My mom and I have both been cancer free now for 6 years and I plan on playing as much baseball as I can.  I may not get my All-Star swing back, but that's not going to stop me from trying.

Bronco Astros - Fall 2015

In case you don't recognize him, Ryan is on the far right.