CEDAR SPRINGS, MICH. - This wasn't even supposed to happen, because he wasn't even supposed to be here. Brison Ricker -- the Cedar Springs teen who has been battling terminal brain cancer for the past 15 months -- is about to experience a fleeting moment of 'normalcy', as he continues to fight for his life.
He's going to prom.
"I've been thinking about asking him for quite a while, but I wanted to make sure he was feeling up to it," said Megan Dreyer, who's wrapping up her senior year at Cedar Springs High School. "I also wanted to check with Brison's parents to make sure it was okay."
A few weeks ago, Megan called Kim Ricker (Brison's mother) to ask if he'd be up to going to prom.
"I said, 'absolutely'," said Kim. "Brison would enjoy going and it would be good for him to get out of the house and feel like a high school student again."
Once Megan got the green light from Kim, she began to coordinate her clandestine plan because she wanted to make sure Brison was surprised.
"I talked to my soccer coach and he said the best time to do it would be during halftime of our game," said Megan.
She then took the time to make a bunch of signs, and selected ten players from her team, in addition to herself, to each hold a letter.
"Megan and Brison have been friends form many years and he has always wanted to see her play soccer," said Kim. "Brison and I went to the game [on Friday, April 21] and treated it like it was just a normal game."
Brison was in his wheelchair along the walkway in the grandstands watching Megan play. When halftime came, he saw several of the girls lining up along the sideline, each holding up a card with a letter on it.
"I was confused at first," said Brison, who was diagnosed with DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma) on January 22, 2016. "One of my friends said that it looked like somebody was bring asked to prom."
The 11 soccer players, including Megan, spelled out - 'BRISON PROM?'
Megan was holding the card with the question mark on it.
"Once I saw what was being spelled, I knew it was me who was being asked to prom," said Brison.
Once Megan saw Brison's reaction, which was a gigantic smile, she ran into stands to ask him in person.
"Will you go to prom with me," asked Megan.
"Yes," said Brison.
(On April 21, during halftime of the girls varsity soccer match, Megan Dreyer (who plays on the team) recruited ten of her teammates to help her ask her friend, Brison Ricker to prom. Megan and the players each held up a sign with a letter on it. When the girls had the letters flipped up and in the right order, the message read – ‘BRISON PROM?’ Brison Ricker was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in January 2016.)
"He looked very surprised, "said Megan. "When we were littler, everyone always joked around that Brison and I would get married, and I knew he had a crush on me.
"i just feel this is a good opportunity for him to get out and do something, and I think prom is fun, and we always have fun together, so I'm sure we'll enjoy this together, too."
One year ago, Brison and his family were dealing with the reality of his grim cancer diagnosis.
DIPG carries a 0% survival rate.
Brison was enduring several rounds of radiation and chemotherapy, which weren't working. By June, his brain tumor had grown, and he was growing weaker. His oncologist at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital told the family to contact Hospice because there was nothing more they could do.
It was at that point the Rickers decided to try alternative cancer treatments, and pursued those in Texas.
Brison struggled to adjust to the new meds at first, but that didn't seem to matter. He continued to receive brain scans every 6-8 weeks and the results kept showing the tumor was shrinking.
While the news seemed to be improving for Brison, his younger brother, Preston was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer in December 2016.
Brian and Kim Ricker were faced with both of their sons diagnosed with cancer 11 months apart.
Preston had his thyroid and lymph nodes removed in January, and is looking at a full recovery.
"Preston is back to school and returning to normal life," said Kim.
Brison's is still battling.
In February, he had had another MRI and the results weren't good.
"We learned that Brison had a spread of tumor in the lining of his brain and his spine," said Kim. "The tumors are very small, and kind of peppered throughout."
After receiving that news, the Rickers continued to rely on their faith and community support to carry them through.
Six weeks later, Brison had another MRI, and the news was much more encouraging.
"Both his oncologist here in Grand Rapids and Dr. Burzynski agreed that the original tumor [the one that brought the diagnosis in early 2016] appeared to be gone, and that there was no longer an active tumor there.
"There was just some scar tissue.
"The MRI showed that there was no change to the small spots [that were discovered in February], which meant those have stabilized.
"The word 'stable' is good in the world of DIPG."
Brison continues to gain his strength back, thanks to the physical therapy he's receiving at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
"They're working him hard for twice a week for two hours," said Kim. "They make him walk and stand and work on his balance."
The alternative treatments the Rickers use are costing the family $27,000 each month, so they rely heavily on a GoFundMe page that's been set up to help pay, since insurance won't.
Brison will need to continue taking the alternative medications each month indefinitely, even if it's ever determined that his tumor is completely gone.
"We had stopped the gene-targeting oral medications for Brison because they were causing side effects, but Dr. Burzynski says we need to re-start those," said Kim. "We were waiting to start them up again after prom, because we wanted to make sure he felt good for his big night."
Speaking of the Cedar Springs' prom, it's Friday, April 28, and Brison says he's more than ready to go.
"I got fitted for my tuxedo earlier this week," said Brison. "And, I plan to dance, too."
Below is a list of upcoming fundraisers for the Ricker family:
May 1 - Can Drive: Cedar Springs Meijer at 5:30 p.m.
May 7 - Rickerstrong Skating Fundraiser at Patterson Ice Arena in Grand Rapids, from 5:00-7:00 p.m.
May 10 - Flos Fundraiser - 15% of total purchases will be donated to Rickerstrong Run Razor with presentation of flyer.
May 21 - Running for the Rickers 5K (begins at 9:00 a.m at Cedar Springs Middle School).
For more information on these events, and other ways to support the family can be found at their Facebook page: Team Rickerstrong
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