In Honor of Ryan Lukkarinen, Survivor

My five year old son, Ryan, was diagnosed with a brain tumor on 8/24/04. He had a baseball sized mass pressing on his brainstem. He underwent surgery at the University of Iowa Hospital on 8/27/04. The pathology report we received a few days later classified Ryan’s tumor as a Juvenile Pilocytic Astrocytoma

Unfortunately, the surgeon wasn’t able to get a complete resection. The residual tumor continued to grow. After a third post-op MRI on 1/19/05, it was apparent a second surgery was necessary. The surgeon assigned to Ryan’s case was very grim in his demeanor and had a discouraging outlook.

My wife Tara worked relentlessly to get as many expert opinions as possible. Our investigation led us to the Brain Tumor Center at Duke. Just days before Ryan’s surgery date in Iowa, we flew to North Carolina to meet with a neurosurgeon and an oncologist.

The BTC’s slogan is, “At Duke, there is Hope”, and that is what we found. We cancelled our surgery date in Iowa and made arrangements at Duke. On 2/11/05 Ryan underwent his second major surgery. This time, the surgeon was able to get a complete resection.

An MRI the next day proved Ryan’s tumor was gone. Ryan continues to have periodic MRI’s to monitor his condition and we meet with our oncologist at Duke on an annual basis to evaluate Ryan’s case.

I know the thousands of prayers on Ryan's behalf made a difference. His healing has been a miracle in our lives.

As a result of Ryan’s battle, we decided to help others affected by brain tumors. We formed ‘Team Lukkarinen’ to raise funds for research and clinical trials at The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke through their annual Angels Among Us 5K and Family Fun Walk. We raised $7,147 in our first year. Team Lukkarinen will be participating in Angels Among Us again in 2007. My hope is that our efforts will help produce a miracle in someone else's life.

Thank you for letting me share Ryan’s story.


Ray Lukkarinen


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