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What Would Ryan Do?

What Would Ryan Do?

Last week I found out a friend of mine was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He is only 26. Young.

The week prior, for a work assignment, I talked to an inspirational Pelotonia rider and his mom, about his diagnosis of melanoma. He is only 26. Young.

Coincidence? I don’t think so.  Ryan, the rider, was full of positivity and appreciation for life. He inspired me. He opened my eyes. Without knowing, he made me think about the experiences I’ve had in my life, and how grateful I am for those moments.  Little did we both know, that he was also equipping me with the tools to help my friend.

Ryan Fasold was just 25 years old when he was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma. He met with his doctor after having what he thought was a bug bite or a pimple. He wasn’t sure. Even his doctor didn’t think it was anything but wanted to do a biopsy just to check it out. Unfortunately, it was something. It was cancer.

He remembers walking into a movie with a friend, when his doctor called and said, “Ryan, do you have a minute?” He went on to say,  “You have a serious form of melanoma and we need to act quickly.”

Ryan told me that he was in shock and all he could think about was how he was going to tell his parents. His mom, who has always said her “greatest accomplishment in life was being a mom,” would be shocked, emotional, and clearly upset. He wasn’t sure how his dad would respond, but he knew he needed to call them. His parents were divorced, so it was also hard for him to figure out who to call first. “How do you tell your parents? What do you say?”

Ryan Fasold

He called his mom first, and he was right. She was shocked, emotional and extremely upset with the news. Then it came time to call his dad. He had never heard or even seen him cry, but when he told him the news, it was as if he had been kicked in the gut. Shocked, emotional, and extremely upset, just like his mom.

Though Ryan was also in shock, he remained calm. He mentioned to me that he started to think about his life, what he had accomplished as a 25-year old and it made him incredibly grateful. He had been able to play sports, to travel, to make great friends, had made lasting memories, and ultimately already had an amazing life. Not that he was planning to die, but he kept thinking about the bigger picture and just how fortunate he truly considered himself. He thought about kids and babies that were dealing with cancer who may not have the chances he had. Thinking about these kids made him grateful for the time and experiences he had already enjoyed. Even at his young age.

I personally couldn’t believe that’s what he was thinking about. I felt if this was me, I would have been thinking, “wow, what do I need to do to fight this thing? Or if the diagnosis ends up being really bad, how can I do all of the things I have been wanting to do in whatever time frame they might give me?” I would just want to spend every moment with my family. But he, instead, kept positive and didn’t even think about himself. He was thinking about kids who weren’t as fortunate as he was. Puts things in perspective, right? (And makes me feel like a selfish jerk).

Ryan mentioned that throughout his treatments he was surprised at how his relationships grew with his family, friends, and even his doctors. He was able to watch his parents, who had been divorced and barely speaking, come together to help him throughout his treatment. There were days where they were all together, laughing, joking, crying, and it sometimes felt like they had never been apart. He had his parent’s undivided attention, and they had his. They were all so grateful for every moment they had to just to stop time and talk.

RyanFasold_Dr

He even became good friends with his doctors. Ryan never felt like he was a patient, but instead, a friend visiting another friend at his office. Even though his doctor was an Alabama fan, and Ryan a Buckeye, they were still able to form a friendship (Yes, hard to believe).

Talking to Ryan lifted my spirits and the way that I think about cancer. He opened his heart to create friendships with people he may have never encountered. He took the opportunity to have very personal conversations with his parents and spend quality time with them. He was even able to see his parents enjoying one another’s company again. And ultimately, he was able to see just how amazing his life has already been.

Ryan just completed his last treatment with few side effects, and he is happy, healthy, and grateful.  “Cancer sucks,” but Ryan never once woke up thinking about himself, or the possibility of not making it through treatments.

As I continue telling my friend that I am sending him positive thoughts, I am also going to encourage him to take a moment to read about Ryan’s experience. I won’t tell him “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” but I might tell him that when he is down, think about Ryan.

I hope my friend’s outcome is as good as Ryan’s. I hope his outlook can be as positive, too.

A good lesson for all of us: When things seem about as bad as they can be. Think about the power of an attitude like Ryan’s.  I know I will be asking myself, “what would Ryan do?’

 

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