He belongs to a unique group of Northern Nevada children who have been battling childhood cancer during their high school years.
In October 2009, while he was attending Damonte Ranch High School, Ramirez-Lira’s mother, Irma Lira, took him to Renown Regional Medical Center after noticing he was experiencing benign symptoms, such as a fever, sinus infections and pneumonia, on a regular basis. She insisted on a blood test. He was diagnosed with Philadelphia-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia, one of the more difficult forms of pediatric cancer to treat.
Ramirez-Lira has spent 14 months on and off at Children’s Hospital and Research Center Oakland’s highly specialized immune compromised unit in intensive care and taking a chemotherapy regiment of 14 pills in the morning and eight in the evening. He’s also had intense chemotherapy infusions to induce remission. Though the cancer seemed to be going away, Ramirez-Lira relapsed and doctors ordered a grueling bone marrow transplant in October 2011. So far, according to mother and son, it seems it was successful.
“You try to live life normally, but for a minute, you forget everything and you’re thinking everything’s okay,” Lira said. “The next minute, it’s still the same – all the medication. I have to remember he’s still sick. I don’t want to lose my son. I have really good faith in this transplant.”
To keep up with his studies while he’s been in the Oakland hospital, often for months at a time, he has been enrolled in Washoe County School District’s Washoe Online Learning for the Future program, taking classes online. Lira gave up her job as a clinical aide in the school district to tend to her son.
The teen has experienced hair loss several times and other side effects of chemotherapy, all the emotions that come with having childhood cancer, but said he wouldn’t let it impede him from accomplishing all the other plans he has for his life.
“You have to keep being optimistic and not get depressed,” Ramirez-Lira said. “You just have to keep moving forward and smile each day. Be thank you’re still alive. You have to try to be normal.”
Ramirez-Lira will graduate with his Damonte Ranch High School peers at 12 p.m. Saturday at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.
NNCCF director of Programs and Services Leslie Katich said the staff is proud to be able to watch Ramirez-Lira finish his K-12 education.
“Ricky’s road has been incredibly difficult, to say the least,” Katich said. “To have completed the requirements for graduation with flying colors as he has is momentous. This was not easy for Ricky and he had every excuse to take the easy way out. We are so proud of his accomplishments and his example of courage to others.”