Sunday, May 23, 2010


John was so excited when Mike's cousin arranged for him to batboy for one of Cal's last home baseball games. It was a wonderful afternoon with John's special friends, family and extended family. Mike's cousins email and photos from the day sum it up perfectly......

email from Larry Ricksen~

We witnessed a great Cal baseball game yesterday, but unfortunately we came out on the losing end as UCLA scored 3 runs in the 9th inning. Jimmy and John both got to be the bat boys for the game and did a great job. Jimmy was responsible for replenishing the umpire’s stash of balls and John was in charge of retrieving the bats after the Cal batters finished their at bat. When Jimmy left for a birthday party in the 7th John took over both duties.

It was a beautiful and breezy day with sunshine, marshmellow clouds, and family. After the game ended the Cal players were really discouraged as they had rallied with 3 runs in the bottom of the 8th to take a 2 run lead. John told his dad he heard about 20 F bombs after the end of the game. Eventually the team gathered in the outfield and the coach asked John to join the team. We learned from Mitch, a Cal player and Katie’s boyfriend, that the coach did not berate the team for their mistakes, but simply reminded them that although they lost a tough game, it should be kept in perspective, as the challenges many people courageously face in life, like John, should make them all realize that losing a baseball game is not that important.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Thank you OBA!

Thank you to all the OBA players and families that helped raise over $6,000 to support the John Ricksen Fund at Children's Hospital Oakland!

Monday, May 3, 2010


I remember vividly the night that the doctors reviewed the 5 page treatment roadmap and went through the 20+ medications John would be on and all their potential side effects. I can not believe that we have finally completed phase 4 and will soon be entering the last and final phase (maintenance) which will last 15 more months.

We had our last scheduled overnight chemo treatment at CHO. We had dinner brought in for the staff that works so hard to care for John and the other patients. Many of these dedicated people have become friends and there was lots of emotion as we walked out of those hospital doors.

We had our last spinal chemo on Friday. These long days of not being able to eat and being put under anesthesia have taken their toll on us. We realized that we have gone through that 13 times over the course of treatment.

I administered my last round of chemo through the broviac last night! It is never easy dressing in a gown, mask and gloves and having to administer something you know is so toxic yet is helping you child.

I have been living so day-to-day that I never realized how much progress we have made. We now will enjoy looking ahead to plan for the future and that is a nice feeling!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Spring Break in the ICU...

John just completed an intensive 5 weeks of chemotherapy that left him extremely exhausted and weak. It has been a difficult few weeks. We were very emotional as we saw our son get weaker and weaker and lose that sparkle in his eye.

John came down with a fever last week and was admitted into Childrens. His ANC count was close to zero, which means he has no immune system to fight off the infection. They gave him a platelet transfussion and ran every test in the book. We were moved to one of the isolation rooms in the ICU where we waited for a few days. Fortunately, his blood cultures came back negative, his fever dropped and his counts finally started to rise. Most exciting to us, we were able to see a smile return to his face.

Under normal circumstances, John would not have been in the ICU during this recent stay. However, the 5th Floor (oncology Floor) was full. CHO had nine new cancer diagnoses last week. We were relieved to be released after just a few days, but we left with bittersweet emotions as we realized that those nine families were about to embark on their own journeys battling pediatric cancer.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Missing Link Leads Fearless to Win #1 Over Orinda Thunder

As I mentioned in the previous blog, John was able to play in the first baseball game of the season. I wanted to share with you the email his coach, Dennis Wong, sent to the team after the game. Enjoy......

The Missing Link Leads Fearless To Win #1 Over Orinda Thunder
When I spoke of John Ricksen in a recent email, I referred to him as the missing link. Little did I know that John would be found on opening day. I should have known as I named this team after John. After all, only someone truly fearless could battle their way back into the opening day line-up while fighting an illness that would make most men weep.
It was just the spark Fearless needed as Jack Dakis skied right from the slopes to Santa Maria, leading off with a solid base-hit. After Nicholas Wong forced Jack out at 2nd, Alton Schmitt ripped a double to the hill to set up 2nd and 3rd. Big Brian Harris then thumped a hit to drive in two runs. Kaden Buckley then doubled to put runners at 2nd and 3rd once more. John and Greg Austin followed with back to back hits, but they could not cash in due to superb heads-up defensive play by the Orinda Thunder. Fearless would have to settle for 3 in the first.
The Thunder answered loudly with two runs. Alton helped limit the damage by snaring a hot shot to get an unassisted out at first, making the score 3 to 2.
Matt Lyons almost got it started in the top of the 2nd with a hard grounder to the right side, but was just beat to the bag by a hustling first baseman. Perhaps inspired by Matt's hustle, Jack kicked it off again with a triple. Nicholas doubled him home, and then scored on an Alton single. Brian got another base-hit to move Alton over to 3rd. Matt Ritchey then scored his first Fearless hit by plating Alton.
Fearless maintained their 6 to 2 lead until they hit again in the 3rd. John played the lead-off hitter with perfection by getting an infield hit. Then, two of our tiniest players showed they were anything but as Roenigk Straub and Brenden Ball had back to back hits that drove in John.
The 7 to 2 lead would stand through the bottom of the 3rd as Roenigk made a sparkling play on a ball hit to the pitcher's circle. Fielding it cleanly, he fired off to Alton who reached up to snare it for the big out. Alton then made an other unassisted play to score another scoreless inning.
Nicholas, Alton and Matt Ritchey all had base-hits to start the 4th inning. After hard grounders by Kaden and John forced in a pair of runs, Greg and Roenigk followed suit with singles to help give Fearless 4 more runs.
The talented Thunder struck back strong in the bottom half with the heart of their order. Notching five hits in a row, they answered back with three runs to make it a 11 to 5 game. With Pinto games being like pinball games, this was still anybody's game.
The 5th inning was the final key. After a Jack double to the hill, Nicholas and Alton had back-to-back "Pinto" home-runs (you know the kind). Brian tried to start another rally with his 3rd hit of the game, but he was left stranded.
In the bottom of what would be the last-inning because of impending darkness, the Thunder mounted a mighty two out rally. With their top of the order loading the bases on 3 straight hits, and their best hitter at-bat, this was the potential game-changer. With a mighty swing, the Thunder clean-up batter launched a deep drive to center-field. All the runners took off on the sound of the smash, and the ball appeared destined to go over the cones for a grand slam. Instead, the missing link was standing there with his glove ready, closing it perfectly upon impact. And yes, John's smile and the others around him was then probably bright enough to let us play some more. But even the gracious Thunder could not deny the perfect ending to the last game of OBA opening day.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

On to Phase 4...

It's been a while since our last report. At the end of February, we finished Phase 3, which was our last round of Methotrexate. We were glad to finally get through this phase. The final dose of chemotherapy was very hard on John. He experienced a lot of nausea, headaches and fatigue. To give you an idea of how lousy he felt - he stayed home and watched Cal win the Pac 10 conference championship at home in bed. Jimmy brought home a whole box of blue and gold confetti to celebrate when he got home -- I'm still finding pieces of it all over my house. John did go over to Cal a few days later to congratulate the coaching staff and team. He brought a banner that he colored, balloons and a 6 pack of yellow Gatorade for coach.

Phase 3 was also difficult due to the amount of time we had to spend in the hospital. We were there for between 3-5 days at a time, with only a week or so in between. I want to say a special thank you to my siblings for their support during this time. I'm so lucky to have been born into a large family and have married into an even larger one. Although Mike and I had the logistics handled on the home front, my brother and two sisters knew how emotional the hospital time would be for me. They each flew up for one of the treatments so I wouldn't be alone. Their support was incredible - I couldn't have done it without them. John has appropriately knicknamed all of them - Geoff "Uncle Chill", Jillian "Aunt Fun" (she actually named herself), and Melissa "Aunt Crafty". It seems my mom and dad did it right - they raised loving siblings who will drop everything to care for one another.

And now we've made it through Phase 3, and the great thing about John is when he rebounds, he does it big. John came back feeling strong and had a great 10 days catching up with his pals and being a kid. He was able to participate in Orinda Baseball's opening day and play in their first baseball game. (more on that later)

Where are we now? John has moved into his 4th and final phase before maintenance. We have been focused on getting to Phase 5, or maintenance, which we will last 15 months. This will be the phase where John can have his broviac removed, return to school and sports and start to get back to a "normal" life. He will still be getting treatment but it will be far less intense.

Phase 4, or Delayed Intensification, began on March 8th. This phase lasts approx 2 months and we basically redo phase 1 & 2 in a consolidated form. He has already had two rounds of chemo and should receive 3 more rounds which will all be administered at the outpatient clinic. Reconsolidation will happen in April and will consist of one last and final hospital stay (24 hours), 2 weeks of chemo administered at home by me and the last two spinal methotrexates.

As far as activities, we've been keeping busy. We spent this past week on a road trip down to LA to watch the Pac 10 basketball tournament. The boys had a great time watching a lot of basketball. Caroline and I enjoyed the better part of LA - shopping on Robertson Avenue and a visit to Newport Beach. We will continue to keep you posted on our progress!

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Weekend in Carmel before Round 3

We did make it for a long weekend in Carmel. We enjoyed our favorite things....hiking Point Lobos, Wagon Wheel breakfast, cocktails at Spanish Bay at sunset. It was a healing weekend in every way. John's mouth sores improved every day and the change of scenery did wonders for all of us.

John was admitted on Thursday for his third round of High Dose Methotrexate. We were surprised that his counts were high enough to start on time. We are so fortunate to have our niece Allie staying with us for the month. She has jumped in to our daily schedule helping with pick ups, meals, etc. She will also be teaching the kids to play piano while she is here. My sister Melissa has come up as well to give me support at the hospital. (A HUGE thanks to NM for picking her up - above and beyond) Mike and I are so lucky - we are not doing this alone!

We spent the four days in the hospital keeping John busy. Melissa learned the dice game of Farkle and lost a lot of money to John. John now enjoys putting money on every game we play. He has become a gambling man - and a very rich one! His spirits were lifted as he watched CAL beat UCLA, and he will LOVE seeing them in first place when he checks the Pac 10 standings this week. I had fun seeing him watch the movie ET, which was one of my favorites as a kid. Every time we've been in the hospital and they put the oxygen light on his finger, I always call him ET -- now John actually gets why. We were released in record time again on Sunday morning.

John continues to have a great attitude. As a mom, I keep imagining that it must be getting old. One night this week as we were going to bed, he said, "Wouldn't it be great if they could cure cancer in a day?". Yes - it would! But for now we're doing it one day at a time.