19 October 2023

Tough two-year-old defies the odds after devastating brain cancer diagnosis as a baby

| Keeli Royle
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Two-year-old Ryder Montgomery going down a slide.

Two-year-old Ryder Montgomery was given just a few months to live when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2022. Photos: Supplied.

A tough and determined toddler who has fought brain cancer since he was just 10 months old will have the chance to be an average kid, splash in the water and play in the sand, following the removal of the tubes that helped him receive lifesaving treatment.

Ryder Montgomery seemed like a normal, happy baby, adored by his parents Alan and Kelly and older sister Charlise, but a few months before his first birthday another family member noticed some concerning symptoms.

“My father came to visit and hadn’t seen him for a while and noticed that when he smiled, his face drooped to one side,” Alan said. “A few days later, his eye started closing when he cried and we thought we better take him to the GP and have a look.”

Many of the doctors assumed it was palsy, a temporary muscle weakness, but soon a scan revealed the heartbreaking truth.

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“The MRI found a tumour about two and half centimetres,” Alan said. “It was quite big and very aggressive too and it was wrapped around his brain stem.”

They were told their baby boy had just three months to live and even after meeting with the oncology team, there was not a lot of hope.

“It was very bleak, it was, ‘He has less than 15 per cent chance’, ‘We’ve never really dealt with this kind of tumour before’, ‘It’s new’, ‘It’s in a really bad spot.'”

It was discovered that Ryder’s tumour was hereditary and had been the same type that had claimed the life of his aunt when she was just nine years old, but thankfully was not passed onto his sister, who has a heart condition.

Ryder after initial surgery.

Ryder after undergoing his first surgery.

Ryder underwent trial treatments with surgery and more than a year of intense chemotherapy and radiation.

Alan and Kelly both left their jobs, and spent weeks on end at Ronald McDonald House, all while trying to keep a sense of normality for their daughter.

“That was the most heartbreaking thing, initially you just start going into that fight or flight mode, everything just becomes about him.

“It was really hard to make decisions about what we should do to keep things as normal as possible for her sake.

“She’s been pretty resilient through it all.”

But they all persevered through the hardships, no one more than Ryder himself.

“I think it’s just something about him, he’s got that sheer determination and will to live and be with us,” Alan said.

“Every time they have said that he wouldn’t survive something, he has, and he hasn’t even flinched or got close to the point where we thought we would lose him other than the original diagnosis.”

Ryder and Alan after chemo.

Alan and Ryder after his first round of chemotherapy.

And against all odds, he has continued to thrive.

“They were able to remove his tumour in surgery early this year and the chemotherapy helped clear everything else up so his treatment has just finished.

“He’s just had his latest MRI and we haven’t had confirmation and are just waiting on the 100 per cent but they’re not concerned about anything.”

Ryder just underwent surgery to remove his central line, or noodle as he better knows it, which will finally give him a bit more freedom and allow the family to go on their first ever holiday.

“He’ll be able to have his first bath and play in the sand at the beach and live a normal life for a little bit.”

This Sunday, Alan and Kelly will unite with brain cancer fighters, survivors, families and friends to raise awareness and vital funds for research at the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation’s Walk4BrainCancer Wollongong, in the hope of securing better outcomes like Ryder’s.

“Early diagnosis like Ryder and being able to find protocols and cures and things to help these guys have more of a life is so important,” Alan said.

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“We were given choices about whether we wanted to push along with these trials and they were never confident at any stage that we would have the result we have now but there was always that glimmer of hope.

“Someone’s always got to be first to survive something and kids are so resilient.”

He urged people to give if they could, even if it was just a couple of dollars, with different charities playing a vital role in helping families financially and emotionally through the most difficult times.

“Until it happens to you, you don’t understand how important your money is and how far your money actually goes. These charities just put everything into helping these families out and without them families wouldn’t get the support that they need,” Alan said.

To find out more or to donate visit the Walk4BrainCancer Wollongong website.

The event starts at 10 am on Sunday 22 October.

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