"Mom, am I going to die?"
When Carla Veldkamp shared with me what her son Ryan said to her as he was waiting to go to hospital, it immediately put brought tears to my eyes.
When Ryan was playing football for the Nomads when he was 11 years old, strange things began happening to him. His chin strap would leave a bruise; he would get out of breath just walking to school. Soon after these indications mom Carla and dad Albert took Ryan to the hospital.
After a number of tests, Ryan was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on Nov. 5, 2008. For the next five years Ryan battled the cancer in his body.
"During that five-year-stretch I felt I was at war," says Ryan. The battery of treatments and tests Ryan endured is beyond remarkable.
"(It was) the scariest thing I could have ever gone through, but it made me stronger. If I didn’t go through what I went through, I wouldn’t be who I am today."
Feb. 4, 2012 was the day Ryan took his last handful of "chemo pills".
This year, 17 years old and going into Grade 11, Ryan resumed playing football, now on the offensive line for the St. John’s Tigers high school team.
"In September of Grade 10 a lot of my friends were playing. I decided I was going to workout, get in shape, and be ready for the next year."
Ryan, along with his mom, dad, and older brother Wesley, spends a lot of time participating in and helping out with events raising funds and awareness for cancer-related programs.
Earlier this month, Ryan was named the 2013-2014 Champion Child by the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba. Over the next year, he will share his story and help to inspire thousands.
"I am very excited and feel very privileged to be able to do all the stuff I am doing," says Ryan.
In the future Ryan wants to become a chef or photographer, and also wants to dedicate much of his time with kids who are battling cancer to "try and help them get through it."
Thank you, Ryan. You are an inspiration to us all.
Former Winnipeg Blue Bombers kicker Troy Westwood is co-host of The Big Show, every weekday morning from 6 to 10 a.m. on TSN 1290 radio. He writes about Winnipeg’s unsung sports heroes every other week in the Canstar Community News weeklies.