Ryder’s Story: How To Look to the Future

Ryder is a rambunctious, creative little boy. He is usually a bundle of energy and, like any curious three-year-old, might push his limits a little further than his mother would like.

After a minor fall off his couch at his home in Yelm, Washington, his parents noticed him acting off so they took him to their local ER. Doctors thought he might have experienced a concussion and instructed them to keep a close eye on him. But when Ryder stopped walking or bearing weight on his legs a week later, his parents (Kelsey and Derek Hines) and doctors became extremely concerned. Ryder was sent to Seattle Children’s Hospital where an MRI scan revealed a tumor on his spine. 

“I saw a group of doctors come to his door,”  Kelsey said. “That’s when they gave us the news. You hear the word cancer and automatically think of the worst case scenario.” Ryder was diagnosed with Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) with RAM phenotype, a rare form of cancer with few case reports and limited research literature. 

While processing this devastating news, Kelsey had to quickly rearrange her and her family’s life plans and put everything on hold. “You can’t plan for the future. Are we going to be at the hospital for months and months on end?” she said. “When you get that news, you just want to put all of your focus and all your energy towards your sick child.”

Kelsey pulled out of her dental assistant program in Olympia and put all their resources toward Ryder’s cancer treatments and finding a place to live in Seattle. While looking into their housing options, Kelsey needed to consider her other child’s needs. Ryder’s older brother, Connor, is five years old and has autism. While hotels might have given them a place to stay, they would not provide the structure, toys, and routines Connor needs to feel safe and happy. Luckily, a room opened up at the Seattle RMHC, which was the perfect fit for both of the boy’s needs while providing a place to stay for however long it takes until Ryder is cancer free.

“As soon as Connor walks through the door he’s getting comfortable and taking his clothes off and relaxing. For a child who has autism, stability is a huge thing and right now he doesn’t have a whole lot of it. But he knows when he’s here at RMHC he’s comfortable and this is a safe place,” Kelsey explained. 

Finding stability beyond the day to day

Ryder is scheduled to receive a bone marrow transplant (BMT) in the coming months, and his family plan to stay in one of the BMT Apartments at the House. The average length of stay for a BMT transplant is around three months. 

Having a clearer timeline and a stable place to live with services has allowed Kelsey and her family to regroup and establish a rhythm and schedule that is more than just living day to day. 

“You also have to think about future wise, you know, I have a whole other child to take care of, and when this cancer journey does end, whether it’s with Ryder being in remission and doing great or possibly losing him. You still have to think about the future, and one of us has to make money and push through,” she said. 

With the support system of a loving partner, the confidence that Ryder has the right team of doctors, and Connor has everything he needs at the House, Kelsey feels she is set up in a position where she can enroll in school again. 

“My kids are happy here, they’re safe here and that’s a huge relief off our shoulders,” Kelsey said. 

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