PEARLAND, Texas - This is a story about perseverance, personified by a little boy from Pearland, Texas. Riley Rhoden isn’t going to let anything get in his way of a normal life.
"It’s just the will of a kid," said Riley’s mom, Rachel.
"He’s beat the odds," said Riley’s dad, Patrick. "He’s gone beyond what I thought he could do."
Those doubts crept in not long after he was born.
"I took him to the pediatrician several times and they told me it was a birthmark," said Rachel.
When Riley was 2 years old, Rachel noticed what looked like a small mosquito bite on his left arm. It looked harmless at first, but after several weeks, the bite wasn’t going away.
"My hair would rise every time I would look at it," said Rachel.
The young mother’s intuition turned out to be right.
"Finally one night, Riley had climbed into bed with me to sleep." said Rachel. "We woke up in the middle of the night and I was soaked in blood, his pajamas were soaked in blood."
Several tests at MD Anderson in Galveston revealed Riley had a very rare Plexiform Fibrohistiocytic malignant tumor. It’s a condition that affects children ages 1-3, and one that is in most cases very hard to treat.
"A 2-year-old doesn’t know what cancer is," said Patrick. "We called it his shark bite."
"There was a time for a couple of days where the term, ‘Make him as comfortable as possible’ was an option," said Rachel. "Just having to sit there and wait while the doctors decided what to do next was tough. Waiting is the worst part."
Doctors finally told the family the only way Riley would be able to survive was to amputate his entire left arm.
"I laid there in bed at night saying ‘God take me instead, take my arm take me instead,’" said Rachel. "I just didn’t want this happening to my kid. It was the most awful thing I think I have ever experienced."
"It’s an absolute miracle that he is even here," she added.
Riley is now 6 years old and is a valuable member of the Braves in the Pearland Tee Ball league. But getting used to his new team and his favorite sport wasn’t very easy for him to do.
"I wondered, how I was going to do this," said Riley. "I had no idea how to play this sport."
One day, though, he and his dad watched a video online of a one-armed Japanese player using a rather interesting technique – move Riley has since mastered.
"I throw the ball kind of high, flip my glove off, catch it and throw it," said Riley.
"This season, in probably the third or fourth game, he actually did it in the game and I was more proud of that than anything else," said Patrick.
He is playing the game he loves while showing anything is possible, no matter what the circumstances are.
"Yes, our son has lost so much, but I feel like he sacrificed to show the world, to show me that it’s not about the diamonds or the purse you have," said Rachel. "That’s really not what life is about."
"It’s amazing, its inspiring and I would definitely classify it as a miracle," said Rachel. "I would say it was God’s plan all along."
Riley seems to be taking full advantage of it.