Lake Zurich cancer patient helps others deal with stress, sorrow
Lake Zurich 23-years-old Ryland Kollar has been living with a life-threatening form of leukemia for nearly half of his life. He said he has always enjoyed camping, fishing, being outdoors and playing video games.
Updated: January 21, 2013 2:46PM
Lake Zurich — Ryland Kollar speaks with the wisdom one would expect from a counselor or a wise old friend who’s experienced some of life’s hardest lessons
So while it’s hard to believe that the Lake Zurich resident is only 23 years old, the fact that he’s been living with a life-threatening form of leukemia for nearly half of his life is even more inconceivable.
In an effort to help Kollar afford medical expenses that aren’t covered by his parents’ insurance — such as certain medications and a number of hospital stays — a fundraiser will be held for Kollar at the American Legion Post 964 in Lake Zurich. Though the event was originally set for Dec. 8, an emergency hospital stay warranted a rescheduling.
When Kollar was 12 years old, he was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphocytic (lymphoblastic) leukemia (ALL), a fast-growing cancer of the lymphocyte-forming cells called lymphoblasts.
Though several chemo treatments, a bone marrow transplant and full body radiation kept him in remission for a while, he was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) two years later. Kollar underwent more chemo and a bone marrow transplant, which put him into remission for four months until he required a second bone marrow transplant in 2005.
Today, Kollar is in his fifth relapse.
“I always thought that they’d find a cure for it and that I’d beat it, but it really sounds like it’s going to linger on for the rest of my life... Right now, my goal is just to understand that and learn to live with it,” Kollar said.
According to Kollar’s mother, Laura Santucci, Kollar’s doctors told him that he will require chemo every month for the rest of his life to keep his cancer under control.
When he’s not concentrating on his cancer and correlating treatments, Kollar likes to camp, fish, be outdoors and play video games. His favorite gaming console is his Xbox 360, but his favorite game right now is the online multiplayer computer game “League of Legends.”
To further get his mind off of his disease, he enjoys helping friends and family members cope with stress and sorrow.
“The cancer that I’m dealing with…I thought that instead of just enduring it, maybe there’s some way I can help out other people that are going through their own emotional stress,” Kollar said, adding that he’s been lucky to have his own support system at home.
In addition to mother Santucci and father Robert Kollar, Ryland said that his brother, Alec Kollar, 21, is someone that he’s found can best relate to him emotionally. Though his youngest brother Steven Kollar, 9, doesn’t fully understand the extent of what Ryland has gone through mentally, he has also been there for Ryland to lean on for support.
“There is still life ahead of you. Somehow, some way, you just have to push through this,” Kollar said, regarding how he works to stay focused on his non-cancer-related goals.
Make-A-Wish Foundation, the nation’s largest wish-granting organization for children with life-threatening medical conditions, flew him out to Hollywood, Calif. when he was about 15 to dust off a tyrannosaurus rex’s fossils. Because Kollar had always found the work of paleontologists and archaeologists interesting, he also got to visit the Page Museum at the Rancho La Brea Tar Pits, home of the world’s most famous fossil localities.
In the midst of a recent hospitalization, Ryland is trying to come to terms with the notion that he will live with cancer for the rest of his life. For years he had hoped his doctors would find a cure, but because he has been told that there is no cure, he wants to concentrate on understanding and accepting that.
To learn more about Ryland or to hear news about when the fundraiser will be rescheduled, visit caringbridge.org/visit/rylandkollar. Santucci shares updates and digital journal entries about her son’s battle with cancer.