Matthew, Age 10, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)

Ten-year-old Matthew, an avid baseball player and fan, was glued to the TV during the 2005 World Series.  He was cheering on his best friend, Houston Astros second-baseman Craig Biggio. The two became friends several years ago after Matthew was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Batter up!  Matthew Ritch Hits Leukemia out of the park

Ten-year-old Matthew Ritch, an avid baseball player and fan, was glued to the TV during the 2005 World Series.  He was cheering on his best friend, Houston Astros second-baseman Craig Biggio. The two became friends several years ago after Matthew was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

(2005) – Matthew was almost five years old when he began having stomach pains.  His parents, Kristi and Mark Ritch, took him to his pediatrician but nothing looked too unusual so he was sent home.  Two months later he woke up crying from pain in his hip.  He wouldn’t walk.  They eventually ended up at Texas Children’s Hospital emergency room where he underwent a series of tests.    Within a matter of days he was diagnosed with leukemia.

“We were in shock when they told us,” said Kristi.  “The most promising news that we received that day was that this form of leukemia was the most common and most treatable.”

The doctors explained to Kristi and Mark what would happen next. They were assigned a social worker to help guide them through the process. Matthew’s treatment at Texas Children’s Cancer Center began immediately. He responded quickly to the drugs.  Within the first 28 days he was in remission.

Matthew returned to the hospital every three weeks for chemotherapy and a spinal tap for the first six months.  Gradually through the next year and a half his treatments became less frequent.  It has been two and a half years since his last treatment and he is scheduled for his first long-term survivors visit.

“Everyone at Texas Children’s was wonderful,” said Kristi.  “Matthew became very attached to Dr. ZoAnn Dreyer and several nurses.  It’s never an easy process to go through but Texas Children’s made it bearable.”

For the past four years Matthew has attended Camp Periwinkle, a week-long camp designed for pediatric cancer patients and their siblings.  It is one of the highlights of his year.

“The first time he went away to camp he came back depressed and didn’t want to do anything,” said Kristi.  “I thought he had relapsed but the doctor said his reaction was normal.  All the kids are sad after they leave camp. He later told me that he loved me but he really wanted to go back to camp.”