It had been hiding there like the sun behind a cloud filled sky, but when it revealed itself, it was a thing of darkness instead of light.
"He got up on a Monday morning and started stumbling around and slurring his words," said Shirley Simmons, his Grandma, stunned that 4 year-old Ryder, barely at the beginning of his life, had something under all that blond hair that threatened to end it.
"A very aggressive form of brain cancer," she said.
So aggressive, that just a week after his diagnosis, there was surgery.
"I'm so, so proud to be his mother," said Elly Patterson.
A pride that would grow when her son's battle would intensify with six weeks of radiation therapy.
"I just tell him what a big brave boy he is and how proud I am of him," she said.
And its bravery in a tangible sense. Cause when you're four you can't wrap your head around the possible end of your existence. Instead, you're just fighting the urge to pull a tube out of your chest delivering medicine. You have to cope with yet another procedure that maybe you're just tired of. And then you muster up the courage to go into the room with the big thing from Star Wars, to get a dose of something intangible.
"Proton therapy is radiation therapy," said Ryder's doctor at ProCure in Oklahoma City, explaining the benefit of zapping the tumor with pinpoint focus.
"When you use protons versus regular x-rays, you'll treat the same area at risk, but you'll decrease the dose to the normal healthy tissue, in this case the rest of Ryder's brain, by about 80%," he said.
But even with all this, he's got a 50/50 chance of survival.
"It's MRI by MRI, all you gotta do in between is pray," said Elly.
The thing about prayer is, you never know exactly what you're going to get. Or who.
"I'm sacrificing myself so that people can be aware of him," said Tom DeClue.
"We didn't even know him," said Shirley.
A stranger who poses a danger to pessimism.
"God has given me a place in my life to help this kid and his family," he said.
The remarkable story of a man on a mission for Ryder.
"And I asked him once I said Tom do you ever sleep? Would you take a day just slow down, spend it with your family. No, I can't do it. If Ryder's gonna fight this fight, I'm gonna fight it with him. When he's better I'll stop," said Shirley.
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