• Bill Althaus: Cancer battlers like Christian are real heroes

  • Think pink!

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  • Think pink!
    It’s certainly easy to do when you pick up today’s edition of The Examiner, which is dedicated to breast cancer awareness.
    Some of the most memorable sporting events I have covered over the past few years have been associated with breast cancer awareness – whether it’s a pink-themed Blue Springs High School or Blue Springs South High School gymnasium during the annual Dig For the Cure matchup between the rival Wildcats and Jaguars, or the emotional memory of a high school pitcher making the ceremonial first toss to his grandmother, a cancer survivor.
    Some schools dedicate an entire week to breast cancer awareness, and the message really hits home when you see a 285-pound offensive lineman sporting pink wrist bands and a pink chin strap.
    I don’t know if the awareness theme can really make an impact unless you know – or love – a cancer survivor or someone who is battling the disease.
    Over the past 30 years at The Examiner, I have witnessed some courageous moments on the baseball field, the basketball court and the gridiron.
    Record-breaking performances, game-winning shots at the buzzer and underdogs pulling off an upset are the things I savor.
    But they pale in comparison to the daily heroics I witness from a 10-year-old girl who has a form of cancer that is so rare she has to make a weekly trip to St. Jude's Hospital in Memphis to get an experimental form of chemotherapy that might stop the tumors on her lungs and liver from growing and spreading.
    Every time I cover a breast cancer awareness event or see the color pink I think of my personal hero, Ryan Christian.
    She is the daughter of former Missouri Mavericks captain Jeff Christian, who is now off the ice and on the road to Memphis at least once a week.
    If you are a regular reader of The Examiner’s sports page, you know about Ryan and how she developed a form of cancer that was so rare, only three other youngsters in the United States were affected by its savagery.
    She has had more surgeries than she can recall. She rattles off the names of her medications like most 10-year-olds would rattle off the names of their favorite television programs.
    Ryan is a pet lover, who loves picking walking sticks off the side of houses. And if there is a frog within grabbing distance, she's going to find a way to catch it.
    Her artwork rivals Picasso – just ask all the Missouri Mavericks fans who purchased her paintings at a recent charity event – and she can turn twine into necklaces and bracelets that rival anything you could ever find in a department store.
    Page 2 of 2 - She eats ketchup on everything – including chicken strips – and loves to cuddle with Mom and Dad and watch Monster High videos.
    I don't know why the Christian family has to deal with something as monstrous as cancer.
    But if any 10-year-old on this planet can kick cancer's butt, it is Ryan Christian.
    So as you read today's Examiner, take a moment to think about all the Ryan Christians of the world. Say a little prayer. Think about them as you read about your favorite prep sports team and know that knowledge and awareness are two of the best weapons to battle cancer, so a kid like Ryan can start thinking about her Halloween costume instead of her next chemo session.

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