Ryan Head is a grade 10 student at Riverside Secondary who was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). He is now in remission and has bravely decided to share his difficult story of a young person with cancer.
All I want to do is help people because they helped me. I didn’t speak in front of the school because I thought it would get me popular I spoke because the things I went through no one should have to go through.
Ryan had a difficult grade 8. He was admitted to the emergency room because he felt light-headed and overall unwell. A weak immune system resulted in a diagnosis of pneumonia. Cancer symptoms weren’t noticed. The emergency room doctor didn’t complete a routine blood test, missing the cancer. The following weeks were even worse for Ryan as he was hit by a car; a tree fell on his house and he still struggled with pneumonia. Two weeks later he was back at the hospital still feeling unwell. That’s when he was diagnosed; the pneumonia was actually cancer.
Ryan underwent treatment at Children’s Hospital. During treatment, he did one round of chemotherapy and had a bone marrow transplant after the doctors found a mutation making it more possible for the cancer to come back. The transplant left him in a wheelchair with constant pain in his legs.
The night he found out about his cancer, Ryan told his friends. According to Ryan, when he told his friends, they didn’t treat him any differently. According to the Cancer Council of Victoria, making life feel normal to a teenager with cancer means everything; it promotes a healthy recovery and makes returning to school and home easier. “It was never in the forefront; they didn’t treat me like a kid with cancer. I was just a kid who happened to have cancer,” said Ryan.
It was never in the forefront; they didn’t treat me like a kid with cancer. I was just a kid who happened to have cancer.
September 2018 was his first year back, which he compared to ‘being hit with a meteor’. Telling people about he’d gone through seemed to help Ryan pull through the first weeks of school. “It’s hard to approach somebody in a wheelchair, but once they knew what I had been through, they started to actually talk to me,” said Ryan. In the recent Terry Fox assembly on September 27 of 2018, Ryan had an opportunity to speak in front of the school about his journey. “Once the first 100 people came in it eventually didn’t matter it eventually just blends into one it doesn’t matter at that point,” said Ryan when asked if he was nervous. Ryan said the main reason he spoke during the assembly was to provide awareness. “All I want to do is help people because they helped me. I didn’t speak in front of the school because I thought it would get me popular I spoke because the things I went through no one should have to go through,” said Ryan.
Since becoming a cancer advocate, people around Ryan have been different towards him. They treat him as an inspiration and as someone wouldn’t let himself be defeated, which is a standard that can be hard to live up too.
For now, though Ryan has come back to be a student at Riverside and plans to go on telling people about his story.