But things took an unexpected turn when Luke started to have a headache on Christmas Eve 2013.
Within a week, the pain was so unbearable he ended up in his local ER with what doctors thought was mononucleosis.
After a routine blood test 6 weeks later, Luke’s primary care doctor noticed that his white blood cell count was elevated.
He immediately called Sharon’s husband, Pete, and told him to take Luke to Akron Children’s Hospital. The staff there would be waiting for him.
From that day on, everything changed.
Within an hour of walking into our ER, the Ritchey family had a diagnosis: 13-year-old Luke had cancer. They now had to figure out what kind.
Sharon recalls how everything in the next 24 hours happened at lightning speed.
Luke settled into the Showers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at Akron Children’s, where after additional tests, the staff informed Sharon and Pete that Luke was battling Burkitt lymphoma, a form of cancer that attacks a patient’s lymph nodes, as well as leukemia.
It was stage 4, the highest stage.
The next day, Luke received his first dose of chemotherapy.
“The first 2 days were the hardest,” said Sharon. “But the hospital wrapped its arms around us. The doctors, nurses and support staff were unbelievable. Our door was revolving with people who wanted to help, and not just Luke, but our entire family.”
Throughout the next year, Luke underwent chemotherapy to combat the disease. During his first 3 months of treatment, the family stayed at the hospital for extended periods of time.
At the end of August 2014, Luke received his final round of chemotherapy. He’s been in remission ever since.
Today, Luke is a healthy 14-year-old. He’s enjoying normal activities while branching out and trying new ones like skiing, snowboarding and basketball.
“Looking at Luke now, we see our healthy boy that we knew a year ago,” Sharon said. “For years, we had listened to radiothon and sympathized with parents as they shared their stories. Then, we found ourselves in the same situation. Hearing those stories in the past, we knew that Luke was going to get the best care at Akron Children’s.”