Missouri Basketball rallies for a special cause
COLUMBIA - For those who know her, Rhyan Loos is another little girl in kindergarten. She likes to do "girl stuff" with her little sister, Charli, and boss around her big brother, Brady.
"Charli and Rhyan tend to kind of be together, because they're both girls so Rhyan kind of likes to be the mother hen to her, some call it bossy," Jen, Rhyan's mom, said.
Brady certainly seems to agree, but luckily for him, the beginning of Lent may give him a break from being outnumbered by his sisters.
"I gave up being mean to Brady," Rhyan said.
Some might say she gets the spunk from her dad. Brad Loos is a Missouri Men's Basketball assistant coach. While Rhyan may never be able to take him on the court, there is a game she will always beat dad at: Staring contests.
"The staring game. Yeah, she always wins that, because she always blows in my eyes. She cheats!" Brad said.
Brad might call it cheating, but Rhyan calls it winning.
"I can just hold my eyes longer, but sometimes when I want to blink I just blow at him, and he blinks," Rhyan said.
But then, six months ago, just after starting kindergarten, Rhyan's life took a shocking turn.
"When we dropped her off for kindergarten we didn't think she would have any problem. We just thought we would leave and you know she would be fine. And the first couple of weeks were like that, and then she started getting really clingy. She would cry every time we dropped her off, you know when she'd get home from school she'd be real cranky," Jen said.
Brad and Jen then noticed Rhyan had developed somewhat of a limp. After the limp worsened, they took her to the hospital.
In October, Rhyan was diagnosed with stage four Neuroblastoma, cancer of the nervous system.
Since she was diagnosed, Jen's mom, Laura, has been living with the family semi-permanently from her home in Kansas City.
"The hardest part has probably been accepting the fact of the that horrible word cancer," Laura said.
"You know once we got through the initial shock, it took us a little while to get all of our tears out and get a grasp on things, and I think from then on we just kind of picked up and knew that we had to do what we had to do and do what's best for Rhyan."
Rhyan has been through five rounds of chemotherapy since October, and the main tumor, above her kidney, has decreased in size by more than half. She is scheduled to have surgery at the beginning of March in New York where a team of oncologists plan to remove the tumor in its entirety.
If the surgery is successful it is not guaranteed Rhyan will be cancer free, but it is a huge step in the right direction Brad said.
"We try to stay as strong as we can constantly in front of her and keep her upbeat, you know we have a lot of faith that she will be just fine," Laura said.
She said their faith has gotten them to this point, but they also have not fought this battle alone.
"The community, I mean it just took a stand for them, they've wrapped their arms around this family like no other that I've ever experienced or seen," Laura said.
In particular, their basketball family has been with them every step of the way.
"The team has been great. They've been unbelievable, you know, for a lot of them this is their first encounter with cancer as well, so this hit them hard too," Brad said.
"I mean they come over and they make sure Brad's doing ok, and they text him. And whenever they see Rhyan they always go up to her and give her a fist bump and ask her how she's doing," Jen said.
To take it a step further, the team, along with the Missouri athletic department, planned a 'Rally for Rhyan' event at their game Saturday.
"I can't say thank you enough," Brad said.
"Obviously it's big for our family, it's going to show a tremendous amount of support for Rhyan, and we're really excited to see that. But even more so, it's going to help raise awareness and support for a cause that dearly needs it."