Ryker Wallace loves sports, and he is the comedian in his family. “He’s a very happy kid. He likes to laugh and make jokes,” says his mom, Ashley. “He is the youngest of four boys, so there is a lot of fun to be had at our house – teasing and playing football with his brothers.”
When the family found out he had a brain tumor in April of last year, he was seven years old. “He had an MRI on Friday and we were on our way to Fargo Friday night,” she says. Ryker had brain surgery two days later and was in the hospital for 12 days.
When the family returned home, Ryker had a package waiting for him from Brave the Shave. It contained an iPad.
“This was a huge blessing because it makes a big difference when he goes to his appointments. He sometimes has to wait a long time, and it keeps him busy and helps keep his mind off what he’s going through. That thing goes everywhere with us,” Ashley says.
That was the first time the Wallace family had ever heard of Brave the Shave, and had no idea how it would become part of their life. “Parents of the Brave” is a page on Facebook where honoree families go to share their frustrations, ask questions, and vent with a group of people who can truly understand what they are going through. “It’s been a huge help,” Ashley says. “Once you get to be part of the group, you realize you’re not alone – other families are going through the same thing and they’re there to support you. They can give you advice about what has worked and what hasn’t in their experiences, which is a big help. And they’re there to lift you up when you don’t know what to do. You hear their stories and successes and it gives you hope.”
Being around other kids that are in the same boat has also helped Ryker immensely, because he sees there are other kids just like him. “It makes him feel like he’s not alone in the battle, and that’s huge,” she says.
Ryker is now halfway through his treatment, which includes one heavy chemo treatment once a month in Fargo and two easier follow-up ones in Bismarck. The Brave the Shave Family Fund has helped ease the financial burden of these trips to Fargo with gas cards and hotel vouchers.
Even though the family has only known about Brave the shave for a short time, Ashley now considers it a “backbone” for all the families going through the journey that is childhood cancer. “When you feel hopeless and don’t know if you can get through it, Brave the Shave is behind you, rooting for you and your family. It’s a lot to take in and a lot of worry, but it’s great to know that you don’t have to go through it alone.”