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Family battles father, son's cancer diagnoses together

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Dave Figlestahler and Ruth Ann, and their youngest son, Ryan, sit around the family room of their Lilburn home. "We know we do have some problems, but weire not going to let it change the way we live. Weire going to fight through it and weire going to win the battle," Dave said about he and his son's cancer.
 Staff Photo: Jason Braverman In 2006, Ryan Figlestahler, the youngest son of Dave and Ruth Ann, was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 23 years old. In 2010 o shortly after Ryan had finally battled his own cancer into remission o Dave was diagnosed with Stage IV renal cell carcinoma, a kidney cancer that had spread to his right eye, his shoulders, his hips. Earlier this year, Ryanis tumor reappeared. This Christmas, the Figlestahlers say have each other, along with their faith. 

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Dave Figlestahler and Ruth Ann, and their youngest son, Ryan, sit around the family room of their Lilburn home. "We know we do have some problems, but weire not going to let it change the way we live. Weire going to fight through it and weire going to win the battle," Dave said about he and his son's cancer. Staff Photo: Jason Braverman In 2006, Ryan Figlestahler, the youngest son of Dave and Ruth Ann, was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 23 years old. In 2010 o shortly after Ryan had finally battled his own cancer into remission o Dave was diagnosed with Stage IV renal cell carcinoma, a kidney cancer that had spread to his right eye, his shoulders, his hips. Earlier this year, Ryanis tumor reappeared. This Christmas, the Figlestahlers say have each other, along with their faith. 

"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." Matthew 11:24

LILBURN -- The Figlestahlers have each other this Christmas, and they have their faith. Truth be told, that's all they really need.

Their mantra is Matthew 11:24, which Dave Figlestahler, the patriarch, sums up as "if you pray for it, and you believe it, you will get it." There's been a lot of praying in the Figlestahler's Lilburn home the last several years.

"That's what gets us through," Ruth Ann, wife and mother, said.

In 2006, Ryan Figlestahler, the youngest son, was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 23 years old.

In 2010 -- shortly after Ryan had finally battled his own cancer into remission -- Dave was diagnosed with Stage IV renal cell carcinoma, a kidney cancer that had spread to his right eye, his shoulders, his hips.

Earlier this year, Ryan's tumor reappeared.

Bad stuff. Tough stuff. But God gets them through. God has blessed them.

"We're not going to let cancer define us," Ryan said. "It hasn't changed me, and it's not going to change them."n n nA family steeped in passion for sports, the Figlestahlers' living room has signed photographs from several college coaches, including Georgia's Mark Richt, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and Ohio State's (now former coach, but let's not get into it) Jim Tressel.

They all were delivered during or after Ryan's initial battle, and all contain something to this effect: Good luck and we're praying for you. Signed, Coach.

Richt's also includes a more personal letter, telling Ryan how strong he is and to depend on his faith.

But Ryan already knew that. Symptoms of his brain tumor began as a tingling in his arm and a recurring I'm-going-to-pass-out feeling. The Brookwood High School grad was diagnosed on Feb. 3, 2006.

He had surgery a few days later, on his parents' 30th wedding anniversary.

"It was like I was walking and it was somebody else's life," Ruth Ann Figlestahler said.

For three years he made trips to Duke University in Durham, N.C., one of the top brain tumor facilities in the world.

Not to make too big of a leap, but Ryan's cancer may have had a hand in saving his father.

Dave Figlestahler went to the doctor in July of last year after not being able to see out of his right eye at work. The initial diagnoses of a detached retina weren't technically incorrect, but it turned out that ailment was caused by something much bigger -- namely, a tumor behind his eye.

Eventually, it was discovered the cancer had originated in a kidney, and had spread to several other parts of his body. Several doctors offices, in Gwinnett and elsewhere, told the Figlestahlers they couldn't see him until September or October.

A couple months with untreated Stage IV cancer is not a good thing.

One doctor's exact words were "he'll be dead before Christmas," Ryan recalled.

Ruth Ann finally called Ryan's doctor at Duke to see what she could do. That was a Friday. Dave was seen on Monday.

"I turned it over to the Lord, because I figured there wasn't anything I could do, I can't prevent it," said the father who has maintained a full-time job during his treatments. "Man can help with the situation, but the only one that can actually cure (Ryan), or me, is the Lord."

In February, Ryan's symptoms began resurfacing. He had a biopsy two weeks ago, and has the "exact same tumor that he had back in 2006."

Ruth Ann Figlestahler signs every email she sends like this: Take care. Enjoy the day. It's a gift.

For the last 10 months, she has made monthly trips to North Carolina with her son and husband, enjoying the days and hoping for a miracle.n n nEarly on in Ryan's initial treatments, he asked the question: Am I going to die?

"I just said, 'No you're not. I truly believe you're going to live, you're going to beat this thing,'" Dave said.

Soon after that conversation, the Figlestahlers attended a family wedding up north. On Friday, they went to mass. They went again on Saturday.

Both times, the reading was the same. Mark 11:24, the Bible verse that has become the family's go-to: Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

"There's a lot of people that are way worse off than us," Ruth Ann said. The trio is lucky to have a very supportive family, and a ton of good friends from the Brookwood community (even though Ryan now teaches at Rival Parkview), she said.

"We've reacted to this just like nothing ever happened," Dave Figlestahler said. "We know we do have some problems, but we're not going to let it change the way we live. We're going to fight through it and we're going to win the battle."

Both father and son are now in stable condition. Dave walks with a cane and takes his shoes off at work (one of the symptoms of his medicine, oddly enough, is blistering on his feet). Ryan received his first infusion treatment Thursday.

There's a common saying in sports: A win is a win is a win. The Bible says this: Run in such a way that you may win.

Winning is winning. But winning with faith is an inspiration.