Riley was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) on September 8, 2018. This was a shock to all of us, as I took him to urgent care just 2 days before for what we thought was the flu or an ear infection. Our lives changed with one phone call. Within 3 hours of that phone call, he was admitted to Huntsmans Cancer Institute for the next 15 days. During this time, he underwent many procedures, to include Leukapheresis, blood transfusions, platelet transfusions, bone marrow and bone biopsies, spinal taps, and had a central line and a PIC line put in. He was discharged on September 23 (1 day before his birthday), and we were sent home with a three-year treatment plan. His plan includes 4 days of IV chemotherapy each week, oral chemotherapy daily, and chemotherapy infused through his spine once a week. He still receives blood and platelet transfusions in between his treatments. In October, it was discovered that he has an abnormality in his chromosomes called "Philly-like", what this new discovery means is that he requires a bone marrow/stem cell transplant. Chemotherapy treatment alone only leaves him with a 20% survival rate.
Before all this happened, Riley was a funny, talented, intelligent, and witty young man. He had plans to start college this spring to study biomedical engineering specializing in prosthesis. He is an artist and self taught musician playing the piano. He is state gold medalist in marksmanship and went on to compete in the Junior Olympics where he took home a bronze medal. He loved fencing, fishing, paddle boarding, and hiking. He was a Venture Scout and loves his dogs, particularly his German Shepherd named Boo. He volunteered for the American Cancer Society and gathered donated toys at Christmas time for Primary Children's Hospital. To know Riley is to love him, and when asked how he was feeling about this new trial in his life, his response was, "Mom, this could happen to anyone. Why not me?".
Riley was one of the brightest, most creative, funniest, and best Cadets of ANY year I’ve taught. I remember sharing Pho on a trip to Washington D.C. as he discussed future plans, Military aspirations, and life goals. Then he graduated, and life seemed on track. However, going through routine medical checks in preparation for his future, a high white blood cell count and bruise that wouldn’t go away led to the discovery that Riley has leukemia. His spirits, most days, still seem high, and his family is so supportive, and his mom is, herself, a superhero. We are glad to honor a young man who I STILL believe has a bright future, and continues to inspire me.