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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — A local teenager was recently diagnosed with cancer after a year of worsening back pain that eventually led to him losing the function of his legs.

Prior to September, Ryan had no severe medical conditions, but in October, he was diagnosed with cancer and paralyzed from the waist down.

“Barbara and Glenn are experiencing every parent’s worst nightmare,” said Thora Skeldon, Ryan’s aunt.

Skeldon says Ryan is a 14-year-old boy who loves being active. He enjoys riding dirt bikes and ATVs, snowboarding, volleyball and working on vehicles with his dad.

“He is a good student who works hard at school and likes spending time with his friends,” Skeldon said.

“He is the softest-spoken and most polite young man we know.”

A photo of Ryan, taken by his mom.

Skeldon says he is taking every challenge sent his way, asking questions, and learning as much as possible.

Ryan is the oldest of three children, the younger two being 12-year-old twins.

“Ryan’s siblings are managing, and I imagine fearful of what is happening with their brother and not understanding the full ramifications of Ryan having cancer and paralysis,” Skeldon said.

The twins will stay in Fort St. John while Ryan stays in Vancouver for at least six months for treatment.

“As you can imagine, [it] is very stressful for the family as they are separated into two communities approximately 1,200 kilometres apart,” Skeldon said.

They must split their time between Vancouver and Fort St. John, one staying with Ryan and the other with the twins.

Ryan’s extended family is rallying together to support the family the best they can.

Deanna Barnes, Ryan’s cousin, says funds donated to the GoFundMe she created will go towards helping with travel costs, including hotels, and possibly retrofitting their home and vehicle if they need to become wheelchair accessible.

Additionally, the funds will help purchase any equipment Ryan needs during rehabilitation and physical therapy after he is discharged.

Barnes says that before September 2022, Ryan didn’t have any pre-existing severe health conditions besides some back and rib pain.

Trips to the chiropractor would work for about two months before the pain would return, which wasn’t initially debilitating or impeding his regular activities.

The pain was initially attributed to growth spurts due to his height (6’2″) and the activities he enjoyed.

Barnes says, on September 7th, Ryan started to complain of severe back pain, different from the previous pain.

The pain progressed to the point that Ryan could not sleep lying flat in his bed, so he would eventually fall asleep sitting on the couch. Also, during this time, Ryan experienced spasms down his right leg.

Barnes says the family doctor’s office was called, but he would not be able to see a doctor until October 17th.

His family attempted to take him to a registered massage therapist, but they could not work on Ryan due to severe pain and spasms.

The following weeks saw Ryan’s pain getting worse. After multiple visits to the emergency department, he and his family were left with many different explanations and diagnoses for his pain, Barnes said.

The pain was continuing to worsen, Barnes said, but after begging the doctor’s office for a sooner appointment, Ryan was given a telephone appointment on September 23rd.

The doctor ordered x-rays and prescribed muscle relaxants, ibuprofen and magnesium.

On September 25th, Barnes says Ryan was screaming and crying in pain because none of the pain medication provided relief.

At 3 a.m., the family called an ambulance which arrived at 5 a.m. to take him to the hospital, where the doctor ordered a chest x-ray.

No radiologist was available to read the x-ray and provide a report, but Barnes says he was diagnosed with pneumonia.

Ryan was prescribed antibiotics and Tylenol 3 and advised to follow up with his doctor.

Barnes says the new medication still did not provide any relief, so Ryan was given another appointment with the family doctor after more begging.

On September 28th, Ryan had to be wheeled into the appointment in a wheelchair because the pain was so severe.

At this appointment, Barnes explains that Ryan was told he did not have pneumonia, and he was instead given a local anesthetic into his back and told he should move more to alleviate the pain.

Ryan’s pain remained unchanged, she said.

Running out of options, Ryan was taken to the emergency department in Dawson Creek the same day, where the doctor told him to stop taking all the other medications. He was given a prescription for Ativan and other pain medications.

She says on September 30th, Ryan could no longer sit comfortably, and his right leg became numb. He was again taken to the Dawson Creek ER, where more x-rays and blood work were taken.

A couple of hours after arrival, the doctor conducted a final assessment to discharge Ryan, and when he got out of the hospital bed, his legs gave out. He was unable to stand.

Ryan was put back into the hospital bed and given pain medications while a pediatrician in Prince George was called to set up an appointment for Ryan the following day.

Barnes says Ryan’s family was advised to drive to Prince George themselves instead of waiting for transport, so they packed up and made the five-hour drive to Prince George from Fort St. John.

Barnes explains that Ryan’s pain worsened during the drive, and he lost feeling in both legs.

At 2 a.m., they arrived in Prince George, and at 6 a.m., they decided to go into the ER, where an MRI was conducted, showing two tumours pressing on his spinal cord.

That evening, Barnes says they were transported to BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, where a team of neurosurgeons were waiting.

When they got to Vancouver, she says Ryan had no sensation or function below his belly button, and he was given a CT scan to assess the stability of his spine.

After an 8-hour surgery, Ryan was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit, where he stayed for two days of tests and procedures before he was diagnosed with T-Cell lymphoma.

Barnes says he began chemotherapy only days after the diagnosis and has been undergoing it twice a week since then. He has since moved to the oncology unit in the hospital.

Now, Barnes says he can slightly wiggle his toes and move his ankles on both sides with a lot of effort.

Thora says the doctors at the hospital are optimistic from the oncology perspective, and he will be evaluated routinely to see how he responds to treatment.

The prognosis of Ryan’s motor movement and spinal cord injury is currently unknown.

“After an MRI of the spinal cord following surgery, the neurosurgeons have said that
recovery of his motor function is not impossible. However, at this time, they don’t know
how much is possible or how long it could take,” Thora said.

Ryan will move to Sunnyhill Rehabilitation Centre at BC Children’s Hospital once he is medically stable to undergo physical therapy, said Thora.

She adds that the family would like to thank everyone for all their support and that residents can send Ryan a message if they wish.

An email can be sent to bcchbestwishes@cw.bc.ca with his full name, Ryan Dyck, and an indication that he is in the oncology unit. A message or greeting can be put into the email, and it will be printed on decorative paper and delivered to Ryan.

Deanna’s GoFundMe page can be found here.

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Shailynn Foster

Shailynn Foster is a news reporter for energeticcity.ca. Shailynn has been writing since she was 7 years old, but only recently started her journey as a journalist. Shailynn was born and raised in Fort St. John and she watches way too much YouTube, Netflix and Disney+ during the week while playing DND on the weekends.