Ben and Brody: Extraordinary Playmates

Last spring, when my oldest son Blake played Little League, I coached (really, more like hovered around) him in the outfield. One Saturday, I found myself distracted by the two toddlers tossing around a ball behind the bleachers. From afar, they looked like a couple of normal healthy boys, chasing each other around and occasionally falling into a puppy pile on the grass. To those of us who knew the boys, their play was anything but ordinary. My son, Ben, had survived a pediatric brain tumor and his playmate that day, Brody, had fought off leukemia. Both boys have grown up together at the same daycare and both boys are Riley kids.

Brody's diagnosis came first; and I still remember how all of us who knew him reacted with numbed shock when we heard about his leukemia. How could that little blonde-headed kid who sat at the table with Ben scarfing cereal in the morning have anything wrong with him? Six months later, when an MRI revealed the malignant tumor on Ben's brain stem, our family discovered the horror of a pediatric cancer diagnosis first hand. It's a long climb back to normal from there, but the staff at Riley has lifted both boys into a long standing remission.

Brody's mom, Celia, has this to say: "The Riley hematology/oncology physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses all the way down to the cleaning staff became like family to my child and our family during our long stay at the hospital for leukemia treatment. They, along with other families on the floor shared a close bond through cancer which helped me through a very difficult time."

Neither Ben or Brody will likely remember what they went through, and neither has any idea that the other has ever been sick. Thanks to Riley, nobody who watched them playing in the spring sunshine that morning would have known either- but my wife and I and Brody's parents know that it took an extraordinary effort by the researchers, doctors, and nurses at Riley to make this ordinary moment possible.

Oh, and Blake scooped up a grounder that day too. Must have been the coaching.

Chris Edwards, Ed. D.

Chris Edwards, Ed.D, teaches AP World History teacher at Fishers High School, and is the author of several books including 'Teaching Genius: Redefining Education with Lessons from Science and Philosophy.' Chris donates the royalties from 'Teaching Genius' to Riley Children's Foundation in support of pediatric cancer research at Riley Hospital. Chris and his wife Beth live in New Palestine are the parents of two boys, Blake, and Ben, who is doing well after being treated at Riley for a cancerous brain tumor.

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