Ross is a very friendly, easy going, and compassionate middle schooler. He is the kind of person who is friends with everyone, and everyone likes him because he treats people with fairness and respect.
In the fall of 2016, at the age of 11, Ross was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. Only eight months later, his family was devastated to learn that the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes, stage IIIC. During his battle with cancer, Ross has had six surgeries and completed his year-long treatment in October 2018.
“Melanoma in children is very rare,” said Ross’s mom, April. “There are only about 500 cases in the US each year. Ross has an oncology team that specializes in pediatric melanoma at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa working together with his local oncology team at Blank Children's Hospital to give him the best treatment for this rare childhood cancer. He does not let cancer slow him down, and he will not let it win!”
Despite his cancer, Ross is a normal teenager. He enjoys time with his friends and family. He likes going to school where he runs track and cross country and plays basketball. He loves fishing and boating. His weekly treatment caused fevers, fatigue and nausea, but luckily he was usually able to sleep off the side effects overnight.
Ross's diagnosis has been difficult for his family, especially given how rare it is in children. Treatments have included many trips to Tampa and back, focus on rest and recovery while home in Iowa, and managing his daily infusions when treatment began.
“The team at Blank Children’s has been amazing working with the team in Tampa and implementing his treatment plan,” said April. “We are so grateful that we can stick close to home now for most of his appointments.”
Cancer has taught Ross’s family just how precious each day is. It has also inspired April to become an advocate for sun safety and to spread awareness about this disease that is so much deeper than "just skin cancer." Their family has even advocated in Washington, D.C. to Congress and the Senate for more funding to support melanoma research, prevention and awareness.
“No one is guaranteed tomorrow,” April said, “so in the time we are given, we want to enjoy the people and things we love and let the small stuff go. Ross's battle is so much bigger than just his personal fight. We will continue to educate, spread awareness, and advocate for melanoma warriors everywhere!”