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The Schille family is truly grateful to have Ryan Callahan and his family as part of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Ryan and his wife Kyla are the true meaning of caring, hope, and generosity. We love to attend the games as guests of the Callahan’s’ “Cally’s Crew”.

Our daughter, Lauren, who was diagnosed with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma in 2011 is one of Ryan’s biggest fans. The Callahan’s treat us like we are family. After playing a hard game of hockey, Ryan will take time to come down to the locker room and meet the parents, siblings, and children that were diagnosed with cancer. While Ryan is down on the ice winning the games for the Lightning, his wife Kyla spends her night up in the suite talking to all the children and families. Kyla has a heart of gold and makes everyone feel as though they are the most important person at that moment in her life.

We thank the Callahan family for all that they do for our children and our families. Below is her story….

“On June 24th, 2011, at the age of 3, our daughter was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive cancer called alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma. She woke up that morning with a stomach ache, like any other child does from time to time, so we thought nothing of the issue. By mid- morning, she was crying uncontrollably with severe abdominal pain.

A parent knows their child’s cry and even the difference between cries; tired, sibling rivalry, and pain. This cry was like no other we have heard previously. Lauren was in a lot of pain and there was definitely something wrong. We didn’t hesitate and drove her straight to the emergency room. By that time, she started to run a fever. The medical staff wasted no time and brought her right to the back to see the ER doctor on duty. The doctor was concerned of the amount of pain she was in and the onset of the fever, so he ordered her a CT scan. I remember him saying that it may be a simple UTI, but to be on the safe side we will get some diagnostics while she was here.

Lauren was such a trooper and was so brave when she had to have an IV placed in her tiny arm and then again when she had to drink 3 – 8 ounce cups of contrast for the scan. We waited in anticipation for the scan results once we returned back to her room. My husband and I were so worried that Lauren had a ruptured spleen and may need surgery.

I will never forget the look on the doctor’s face when he came back to give us her results. He was very solemn as he spoke which was so different from the jovial man that had left the room 45 minutes prior to that moment. His first words were “Well, Lauren’s spleen did not rupture”…I immediately began to celebrate and look to my husband for the same reaction. But Don was still looking at the doctor and was not smiling. It was then when we heard the word “BUT”.

“We found a large mass between her stomach and her spine”, the doctor told us. Lauren should see a specialist at a children’s hospital is all I heard, the rest was a blur. I rode with Lauren in a transport ambulance to St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. As we rode, Lauren talked and sang constantly, as the anti-anxiety medication they gave her made her quite happy.

We arrived at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital about 4:00 p.m. The paramedics wheeled Lauren’s gurney through the automatic doors and down the hall on the first floor. The elevators were on the right and the sign in front of us read Hematology & Oncology. As we walked closer I prayed “Please God, turn right, please turn right, please turn right”. We wheeled straight through the doors for the Oncology ward. My knees nearly buckled underneath me. They wheeled Lauren into her room where she was moved onto her bed which would be her home for the next three weeks.

That evening the Oncologists confirmed that Lauren had cancer, but they had to get a biopsy to determine the exact diagnosis. She was prepped for surgery the following morning. Everything was moving so fast and felt like I was in a tunnel and wasn’t able to see what was going on around me.  But we had so much love and support through family, friends, and the hospital staff.

Lauren’s doctors developed her protocol. She underwent 43 weeks of chemotherapy and 28 days of radiation which she had to be anesthetized for daily. We hit some road bumps along the way; she lost a significant amount of weight during her radiation treatment, so she had to have a feeding tube placed for supplemental feedings; one of the chemotherapy drugs (Vincristine) caused neuropathy in her legs which caused her to use a walker and eventually a wheelchair; and, we were admitted many times throughout treatment for high fever and neutropenia.

Lauren has also had some post treatment side effects from the harsh chemicals and radiation. Her immune system was severely affected, so she develop multiple ear and sinus infections. Lauren eventually had to have her tonsils/adenoids removed and tubes placed in her ears. The Vincristine also weakened the muscles in her eyes which developed into strabismus. This required her to have surgery in both eyes. She has also been diagnosed with a low heart rate which is currently being monitored.

Through all this, we are so happy and blessed to say that as of May 24th, 2015 Lauren has been in remission for 3 years. She recently graduated from every 4 month to every 6 month scan rotation. Lauren is our strength, our courage, and our hero. She reminds us daily to enjoy life moment to moment. Cancer is not prejudice; it can strike anyone at any time. We continue to fight along Lauren’s side and look forward to celebrating her 50, 60, and 70 year cancer-free anniversary! Thank you.”