In three weeks, 9-year-old Ryan Christian and her parents will make a familiar trip to Memphis, were she will undergo an experimental three-week chemotherapy treatment for a rare form of cancer that has doctors at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital baffled.

In three weeks, 9-year-old Ryan Christian and her parents will make a familiar trip to Memphis, were she will undergo an experimental three-week chemotherapy treatment for a rare form of cancer that has doctors at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital baffled.

Two years ago, Ryan pulled at the heartstrings of people in Eastern Jackson County when they learned that the daughter of Missouri Mavericks all-star forward Jeff Christian, and his wife, Dorie, had adrenal cortical carcinoma – a cancer so rare that it affects only one in 3 million children.

Instead of living in their home in Blue Springs and enjoying the life with her newfound friends, Ryan’s family moved to Memphis where she underwent three surgical procedures and 216 days of chemotherapy.

While the cancer that initially triggered the surgical procedures and chemotherapy is gone, Ryan now has two small cancerous tumors on each of her lungs.

They are no larger than a pin point and would not have been detected 10 years ago. But today’s medical equipment – especially the full-body scanning units at St. Jude – is giving the bravest young lady in Eastern Jackson County a fighting chance.

Ryan spent Christmas with Mom and Dad, Grandma Ohio (Dorie’s mother Lynn Darke), her two cats – Merlin and Dante – and her two dogs, Cooper and Phoebe.

On Jan. 7 she will turn 10, and she hopes to have a skating party and a sleepover. Her smile brightens a room, and her love of life is infectious.

She knows she is facing a difficult battle. And that’s why she and her family live for today.

“This is going to be our best Christmas ever,” said Ryan a few days before Christmas, after giving a tour of her pinker-than-pink play room and bedroom. “It’s going to be our best Christmas because we are home. We don’t have to move anymore.”

Over the past two decades, the Christians have moved 19 times. Such is the life of a hockey nomad and his wife.

“So many of the hockey players have a central place they call home and they just go to an apartment,” explained Dorie Christian, Ryan’s mom. “But we make every stop a home. We bring everything – the cats, the dogs, the furniture; we want Ryan to feel like she has a home no matter where that might be.”

After a year with the Mavericks, Jeff moved to Mississippi to play hockey and be near his daughter.

He retired last year and asked Ryan where she wanted to move.

“She’s lived everywhere,” Jeff said, “but she always considered Blue Springs home. She loves her school, she has so many friends in the neighborhood – this is home.”

They returned to the same neighborhood they lived in two years ago and Ryan is back at William Bryant Elementary School.

Christmas music is playing on the stereo, a large tree that the Christians hand-picked from a Boy Scout troop stand fills the living room.

Cooper and Phoebe lay on the floor at Ryan and Dorie’s feet and love fills the room with a warmth that is inescapable.

“I have got to do a lot of cool things because I was at St. Jude,” said Ryan, who went on a Make-A-Wish trip with her family to Disney World and recently visited the set of “The Today Show” as part of a St. Jude tribute week.

There, she was able to meet Olympic gold medal skater and cancer survivor Scott Hamilton, take a personal tour of the American Girl Store, a carriage ride through Central Park and a front-row perch on Jeff’s shoulders where they watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Through the kindness of KBEQ/Q104 FM morning personality Ronnie Phillips and his buddy, Mike Kennedy, Ryan was able to meet her favorite singer, Taylor Swift, at Arrowhead Stadium and watch the show from VIP seats.

Yet, when asked about the trips to Florida and New York, her celebrity friendships that include Sheryl Crow, Marlo Thomas, Ashley Judd, Terry Bradshaw and Troy Aikman, and all the television and newspaper requests for interviews, Ryan simply says, “I would trade it all if I could just be a healthy kid.

“Everyone at St. Jude is so nice, but I don’t want to go back there. I want to go to school and be with my friends.”

Not a strange request for a soon-to-be 10-year-old who has a flair for fashion and art that belies her age.

“She’s the bravest kid – the bravest person – I’ve ever known,” Jeff says proudly. “Ryan lives by the motto ‘I am strong, healthy and loved.’ So many people have touched our lives and been so great to Ryan.

“St. Jude’s is doing everything they can to help us beat this thing. We’re going to live for today and be happy.”