LIVING LIFE WELL
Ryan Kennington currently attends the University of Delaware. He majors in biology and hopes to attend medical school to become a pathologist.
This is Kennington 2018. Rewind to September 2014.
Ryan was a college bound high school senior at Salisbury High School and an avid soccer player. After a pick-up soccer game, he experienced pain in his hip. In spite of physical therapy, the pain increased.
The initial diagnosis was pigmented villonodular synovitis, but after surgery to treat the condition, the pain remained.
Concerned, Ryan’s mother Linda Kennington, explains, “I kept asking questions.”
Ryan was ultimately referred to Dr. Kristy Weber, chief of the Penn Medicine’s Orthopaedic Oncology Program. Ryan was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a malignant bone tumor.
At the onset of treatment, Linda remembers being told by a doctor, “It’s [cancer treatment] a real commitment.”
In the next year, as her son endured 24 rounds of chemotherapy, another surgery and physical therapy, the doctor’s meaning became clear. Life in the Kennington home revolved around Ryan’s hospital stays and medical treatments. At this most difficult of times, Linda and Ryan began to reach out.
Linda became involved with MIB (Make It Better) Agents. As stated on the MIB Agents website, “MIB Agents is a nationwide…nonprofit organization dedicated to Making It Better for kids with osteosarcoma bone cancer.”
As a MIB member, Linda worked to help establish the annual osteosarcoma conference. She credits Ann Graham, an event organizer and osteosarcoma survivor, as a driving force in developing the conference which has given osteosarcoma research a major boost. (At the time of his diagnosis, the treatment recommended for Ryan had not changed since the 1970s.)
The conference provides doctors, researchers, patients and parents with the opportunity to meet face-to-face in order to share information. In addition, the group raises money to support osteosarcoma research.
In 2018, a grant of $100,000 was awarded to Matteo Trucco, M.D., of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, a researcher focused on developing treatment for metastatic osteosarcoma.
Fully committed to working with MIB Agents, Linda has become the group’s photographer. She is also active in 46 Mommas, a subgroup of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, so named because every day 46 mothers learn their children have cancer. As a member of this organization, Kennington recently traveled to Washington, D.C. and met with legislators to gain support for the Star Act.
The Star Act, a bill that will, according to Kennington’s email of April 15, “…bring more research and benefits to childhood cancer and [put] a pediatric oncologist on the National Cancer Advisory Board.” She met with staff members from the offices of former U.S. Congressman Charlie Dent, R-15th, state Sen. Bob Casey, state Sen. Pat Toomey and spoke personally with state Rep. Michael Doyle, D-14th. Through the efforts of Linda and others like her, the Star Act passed into law May 22.
Ryan follows his own, but equally committed, path to give hope to those experiencing osteosarcoma.
In spite of a setback that required more surgery to remove a lung lesion, he continued to move forward. Ryan describes his mental state at the time of the lung surgery as “…emotionally difficult…but also a time of finding myself and finding a new mindset that would help me stay mentally healthy…”
In addition, Ryan remains dedicated to providing support for the friends he has made through his illness.
When his friend Roman was facing surgery for the removal of a tumor from his kidney, Ryan shared the following quote from Patricia Neal with him, “Life has no smooth road for any of us…we need to remember that happiness is a talent we develop, not an object we seek. It’s the ability to bounce back from life’s inevitable setbacks. Some people are crushed by misfortune. Others grow because of it.”
In 2015, having just completed his treatment, Ryan participated in the Steps to Cure Sarcoma Walk/Run. He participates annually. This summer, Ryan delayed going to Salt Lake City to work for Dr. Joshua Schiffman at the Huntsman Cancer Institute on Osteosarcoma Research in order to participate in the walk/run.
This fall, Ryan returns to college energized by his exposure to Schiffman’s research.
Schiffman won the first research grant funded by MIB Agents for his work with the P53 gene in elephants which may revolutionize osteosarcoma therapy.
Ryan has also rediscovered soccer. The game that once served to remind him of what he had lost, is now a spectator pastime which he enjoys.
The Ryan Kennington of 2018 looks to the future with a mature perspective colored by deep compassion.
Linda and Ryan Kennington are inspiring; individually and jointly, they fight to better the lives of those whose lives they touch. Their philosophy is captured in an A.A. Milne quotation that appears at the end of Linda’s emails, “…there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart…I’ll always be with you.”