GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Dealing with one child diagnoses with cancer can be a traumatic blow for any family, but what if 11 months later, another one of your children is also diagnosed?
This is the reality a family from Cedar Springs is facing.
Cancer has consumed the lives of Brian and Kim Ricker, along with their two boys, Brison and Preston, and it will continue to do so well into 2017.
Brison Ricker, 15, was diagnosed with DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma) on Jan. 22, 2016. This is one of the the deadliest forms of childhood cancers. Brison has an inoperable brain tumor which, doctors say, carries with it a zero percent survival rate.
After several rounds of chemo and radiation last winter and well into the spring, the Rickers decided to get as aggressive as Brison's cancer was.
While Brison continued chemotherapy treatments in Grand Rapids, Brian and Kim Ricker decided to also go the alternative route and took Brison to a clinic in Texas.
The treatments, which continue to cost the Ricker family $17,000 each month, have seemingly worked. Each time Brison underwent an MRI, the results showed his brain tumor was shrinking and he was beating insurmountable odds.
Brison's most recent MRI results came back on December 22, 2016 - three days before Christmas. For the first time in 11 months, the Rickers felt like they could exhale and maybe their long cancer journey was close to ending.
"The day after Brison's MRI came back with positive news, we received the MRI results from Preston, and were told he had Thyroid cancer," said Kim Ricker, Brison and Preston's mother. "It's been unreal."
The Rickers spent the holidays trying to process the news that Preston was now joining Brison in a battle for his life.
"Everybody always says you're so strong; how do you do it," Kim said. "We don't have a choice; we just do it.
"There's not an option to not do it."
Soon after the first of the new year, Preston was brought to Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich., where he underwent surgery to remove his thyroid and lymph nodes.
"The moment I was given the diagnosis, I knew I would beat this because I have watched my brother's battle for the past year," said Preston from his hospital bed. "I'm not afraid."
Preston's cancer carries a 95 percent cure rate, and that's what oncologists have told the Rickers.
"Once Preston heals from ths surgery, he will have radioactive iodine, and that treatment will start in about a month," Kim added. "We're told that should take care of any cancer cells that are left."
Brison, on the other hand, is far from out of the woods with his cancer journey. Last fall, he started having severe gastro-intestinal issues and could not keep any solid foods down. He was in and out of the hospital several times, and was eventually diagnosed with pancreatitis. During that time, Brison had to go off the alternative cancer treatments that were proving to be keeping his tumor from growing.
"It was scary for all of us because we were afraid that the great results he was getting might be compromised by this new illness, and his inability to stay on the treatment plan," Kim said. "Brison has been on a feeding tube for several months.
"He's back on half of his treatment now and hopefully can get back on the rest of it very soon."
Brison will see a gastrointestinal specialist Friday in Grand Rapids to further examine his digestive issues.
"Despite being off the treatment, Brison's tumor is showing continued resolution, and we're taking that as a positive sign," added Kim.
The Rickers are hoping that Preston will be discharged from the hospital Friday.
If you're interested in learning more about the family's cancer journey, or help them out financially, they've set up a GoFundMe page.
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