Four Year Old Cancer Survivor

Elena Noble, MPT | November 2011

David riding a blue Rifton tricycle at a pediatric cancer survival rehab centerToday I had the privilege of interviewing Gary Bryan, David’s dad. David’s picture and story arrived in my inbox sent by an inspired colleague (it had already circulated through the office). I had to know more about this boy on the Rifton adaptive tricycle and his fight against cancer. I started the interview with only the barest facts, but by the end wishing I could be there to hug David and encourage him during his recovery.

Before the cancer hit, David was a lively two-year old. He ran everywhere—a typical “little terror” and the “king of time-outs” in Dad’s words. Then in August 2010 David seemed to lose his indomitable energy. He began vomiting and losing his balance. It went so fast, recalls Gary. Within days, David was having his head drilled to release pressure and then surgery to remove a massive, aggressive brain tumor. The doctors gave him a 10% chance of surviving the next six months.

David Bryan, a cancer survivor, smiles as he snuggles in a comfy bed with his sisterBut David is a fighter. After multiple shunts, more surgeries, meningitis, chemo, bone marrow transplant, and proton beam therapy, David proved the doctors wrong. Although still a sick little boy, David began physical and occupational therapy to restore strength to his muscles which had wasted considerably after nine months in bed.

In the PT gym there was a Rifton tricycle. From day one this Rifton tricycle was David’s best therapy. It was the only thing that motivated him to try and rebuild his muscles and to relearn all his coordination techniques. “Ready, set, go” were the magic words to make the tricycle move. And it could only be used during the last 20 minutes of therapy. Why? David put up such a fight when he was taken off it that continuing other therapy after that was impossible.

Once again, David went back for more chemo and proton beam therapy so was unable to come to the gym. His throat and stomach had been so shredded from the cancer treatment that he quit talking. The last time on the trike he could only say go.

But miracles continued. David improved and was released from the hospital in July of this year. Of course dad and mom wanted to get a tricycle for David to use at home. But the insurance company balked: despite numerous letters of medical necessity from physicians and therapist, they denied funding for the adaptive mobility equipment, insisting that it was “just exercise equipment” and therefore not medically necessary.

A cancer survival story continues with David riding his Rifton tricycle alongside his sister and MomFortunately, with the help from Nelly at Joey’s Eagles, a tricycle was delivered to David. The trike arrived just in time to enjoy the last beautiful weather of fall. As soon as he got outside David rode his beloved tricycle until he fell asleep on it gripping the handle bars.

David’s prognosis is now at 50/50 and dad and mom dare to hope. Now they wait for his speech to return. Maybe his first words will be ready, set, go!

We love you David. Keep fighting.

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