Family puts strength in God to fight cancer through the holidays

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Monday, December 3, 2007
— When her mom goes in for chemotherapy, 11-year-old Kathryn Ryser steps up to take care of her two little sisters.

She’s almost like a second mom to the youngest, 2-year-old Gabrielle, says their mother, Connie Ryser.

And then there’s the middle daughter, Miranda, 8.

“When I was very sick with chemo, downright in bed, this was my little nurse,” Connie says, touching Miranda next to her. “Miranda was my nurse, and she gave me a bell to ring. Whenever I needed something, she would come running.”

Mark Ryser, also known as “Papa,” and the rest of the Brodhead family are making the most of the holiday season as Connie battles Stage 4 lung cancer. Letters the girls wrote for The Janesville Gazette’s annual “Dear Santa” feature shed light on the family’s selfless, strong attitude.

Miranda asked Santa for a little motorcycle so she could take mom to the clinic.

Kathryn would like an iPod that Mom could use while she’s at chemo.

But above all, the girls want what many families wish for at the holidays.

“I just want Mommy’s cancer to be all gone,” says Miranda, wearing a Rudolph shirt and playing with Gabi. “Then we can go on bike rides.”

The family sits in their living room amid boxes and stacks of their belongings as they prepare to move to a bigger home in the same neighborhood this week.

“I think of it every day—is this going to be my last holiday?” says Connie, who isn’t shy about the loss of her hair. “During the holidays it is tough—knowing this might be my last. Hopefully not. But you have to think about it.”

Aside from the moving, they’re trying to keep their routine and traditions at the holidays. Once they’re settled in their new home, they’ll go to the local tree farm where the girls will pick out this year’s Christmas tree. Then it’s “Papa’s job” to cut it down.

Connie will have her sixth chemo treatment this week and will have a PET scan at the end of the month to determine if the cancer has spread or diminished.

Until then, she’s keeping a positive attitude and hopes her story can help inspire other cancer patients to stay strong.

“Since we’ve adopted (their three girls), they’ve already lost their birth parents. I just can’t see them losing their forever mother now,” Connie says. “It’s not in our picture for them to lose me.”

Even after five chemotherapy treatments, Connie says she feels great. She prays daily for strength and gives credit to her oncologist and to a naturopathic doctor she also is seeing.

“I believe totally in God; I’m very spiritual. Take one day at a time and pray and do what you have to do,” she says.

“And just keep on trying to get rid of it,” Miranda adds.

When most people ask for a second opinion on serious medical issues, they automatically go to another medical doctor, Mark says.

But people should explore alternatives, he says, such as a naturopathic doctor.

“I strongly believe in it,” Connie says. “I would (tell) anybody to give it a chance. What do you have to lose?”

Her treatment from that doctor has included a change in diet to organic foods and taking vitamins and supplements.

“Don’t settle for one physician’s opinion,” Connie says. “Keep looking.”

“Keep trying,” says Kathryn as she rubs her mom’s back.

“They tell her she only has one year to live. But if you ask me, I think the doctors are wrong.”


The daughters of Connie Ryser, who is battling cancer, wrote these letters to The Janesville Gazette’s annual “Dear Santa” feature:

Dear Santa,

I think I was rather nice this last year. My mom found out she has cancer, and I try to be her little nurse. Do you think I can have a little motorcycle to drive Mom to the Clinic?


Miranda Ryser

Dear Santa,

I think I was nice this last year. I am a straight A student. I help out by watching my little sister when my mom is sick from chemo. Do you think I could have an iPod to let my mom borrow when she’s at chemo?


Katy Ryser

Dear Santa,

I’m Good—I’ll take Elmo.

See ya,


Last updated: 12:04 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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