Ryder's Guardian Angel

When you see a story start off with shots of hospitals and x-rays, and doctors, you know the stage is being set for a life turned upside down.{}"Ryder has a brain tumor," said his doctor.He's a shy and quiet 4 year-old, undergoing treatment for a cancer near his brain stem."He's got a 50/50 percent chance of survival, said his grandmother Shirley.Odds as frightening as the probability of getting struck with the disease in the first place."It could be anybody's child, anybody's," said his mom Elly.A randomness which could easily make you question if anything in life makes any sense at all.{}"Nothing that's happened with this, I feel is a coincidence," said Tom Declue.Which is where this story gets turned upside down. And winds up, in a field, with some guy flipping a 350 pound tire under a blowtorch sky."Temperature over there in the sun is reaching 110," he said.Tom is right in the middle of an unusual fundraiser, a test of physical endurance that he'd be happy to tell you all about."Hey...(just as soon as he's able to catch his breath) that was tough," he huffed."It is very unusual," said Shirley,{}and she's not talking about Tom's attempt to flip a tire over a thousand times to raise awareness for Ryder's plight. She's talking about Tom's instant connection with her family."We've never, ever, been in a situation like this, having met someone and just formed that rapid of a bond." she said."I can't explain it," said{}Tom's wife Brandy. She's watched as that bond turned her husband into a man on a mission."Tom's energy is absolutely amazing," said Elly, marveling at his non-stop drive."He's up at four in the morning on Facebook going, what can I do, what can I do, what can I do?" she said.He organized a softball game in August."Ryder on 3, 1,2,3, Ryder!"Then there was the weightlifting competition in October. A spectacle of brute strength almost as impressive as SpongeBob SquarePants, playing in the corner of the room.{}He even arranged for Ryder's mom to get a sense of permanence in all the uncertainty."That's awesome. I love it!," she said, looking at her new tattoo of her son's face on her calf.It's an involvement that clearly puts his actions in more than just the good Samaritan category."You know, I don't know that I've ever been able to touch that one, find that one thing that, you know why? As much as how it fit my life," he said.A life which pre-Ryder was missing something."I think this is his purpose in life. That's pretty big? Yeah, it's huge," said Shirley."I can't talk enough without starting to cry, about what he means," said Tom.A few years ago Tom's life was turned upside down, and Ryder has made it possible for him to wear his heart on his sleeve again, his long sleeves."I'm fighting stage three melanoma, so I just try to reduce my skin exposure," he said.For Tom's war against cancer, Ryder has allowed him to access a vulnerability that he denied himself in his own battle.{}"I will tell you, he's shocked my family, because they know him before Ryder and they know him after Ryder, and it's just been a 100% about face," said Brandy."He is the key to me moving on in life," said Tom.And Ryder's life, thankfully, his will be moving on too. In November, an MRI shows the tumor is gone. News which Ryder slightly misinterprets. {}"Did my brain go away?""No, look, there's still plenty of good brain," the doctor chuckles.And in Tom, still plenty of drive."No slowing down," he said.Last seen walking for 12 hours on another fundraiser, expanding his efforts to help other kids with cancer. His enthusiasm a magnetic force attracting people who want to take lives turned upside down, and get them right side up again."I think this is probably the best thing that's every happened to me in my life.{}I want to just continue growing from it," he said.