Cancer strikes Montana family again

Richard and Denise Montana with their son, Ryan

PATTERSON – Richard and Denise Montana have been fighters for years.

With seven children, five girls and two boys, there is always some crisis to overcome.

Nine years ago their son Michael was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) and following a rigorous treatment protocol at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in Manhattan, Michael’s cancer went into remission. Today, he is a healthy upperclassman attending Dutchess Community College with a bright future waiting.

Now the Patterson Family has another hurdle to overcome.

Denise and Richard, joined by their youngest child, Ryan, sat down to chat about the 11-year-old’s recent diagnosis of the same ALL that affected his brother.

Denise remembered the family’s world turned upside down again on Halloween night. “Ryan called me and told me he fell. He was trick-or-treating for only about 10 minutes and came home. I immediately realized something was wrong especially when he told me that he was not feeling like himself.”

An examination by the Montana’s pediatrician including a full blood count sent the family to the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City and following an MRI and other lab evaluations, a tick borne parasite was found in Ryan’s blood.

Additional blood work indicated Ryan had cancer.

Denise immediately phoned Memorial Sloan where a pediatric oncologist examined the young boy the following day.

Chemo immediately began.

Genetic testing was started. ‘We don’t know if this cancer is genetic. Engineers have checked the water feeding our home. The situation is maddening,” she said.

The similarities of the two brothers’ diagnosis is frightening as Ryan’s came during the same grade as his brother; the same time of the year and both boys even had the same teacher at the Carmel Middle School when the diagnosis was made.

Denise said while she and her husband are ready to battle the insidious disease again, she is hopeful since “we beat this one before and Michael is a big help for Ryan reminding him that he went through the treatments and came out fine.”

Richard Montana, a giant of a man who has spent his life assisting others currently serving as deputy chief with the Mount Vernon Fire Department and more recently as a volunteer with the Patterson Fire Department, admitted having the wind knocked out of his sails again. “It was like getting hit in the head all over again. Why my family? Why must such a young and innocent boy undergo such painful and debilitating treatments? Mike beat it! Now Ryan will also overcome this illness. I want to see my kids grow up and be healthy and happy.”

Richard also credited his wife with being a “trooper throughout the ordeal. Denise is the glue of our family.”

Ryan admitted being “kind of tired but overall I feel pretty good.” The young man said he often talks with his brother about it. “Mike told me that I’ll get through it. ‘You’ll be OK and I’ll be here with you every step of the way.’ That made me feel good,” said Ryan.

Richard recalled his older son as being the “most resilient young man I know. He didn’t think about the malignancy but wanted to get better. He went through a great deal; over 100 blood transfusions–the road was long but Michael is a champ and now his cancer is in remission. I foresee the same result for Ryan.”

Ryan will be home schooled since his immunity levels are very low and he can’t be with large crowds.

The youth is on steroids and always hungry. “That’s a good thing,” said his mom adding, “Eat. Eat and stay strong!”

Denise, who is employed as chief of the Patterson Community Ambulance, thanked the community for its overwhelming support. “When the chips are down this community rallies like no one else. My crew is the best. My town is the best and the love and caring from Ryan’s school is also overwhelming. We keep praying.”

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