The impact the new Children’s Hospital Colorado, Colorado Spring will have on families in southern Colorado is already being felt.
On Friday July 15th, 2019 eighteen-year-old Noah Richardson became the first cancer patient to ring the Warrior Bell in the new Children’s Hospital, marking the end of his chemotherapy.
Noah says it’s been a long road from his diagnosis, “I feel like through all that I've endured, I have grown as a person.”
Noah says ringing the bell with many of his care-givers cheering him was a relief, “It's something that can bring everybody together. It’s a good way to celebrate. It’s a weight off your shoulders, a weight was lifted off my shoulders when I rang the bell. It was pretty exciting for sure.”
Noah’s journey to the end of chemotherapy has been 8 months in the making. What began as a persistent cough last fall, was eventually diagnosed as stage four Ewing Sarcoma. The diagnosis was a shock, that Noah says hit his parents harder than him. “I'm not going to say I was upset, but I didn't want to do chemo or radiation or anything like that if it wasn't curable.”
Doctors told Noah and his family the prognosis was good, so they moved forward. Noah’s mother Rebecca McNeal says, “Having a child with cancer is difficult no matter how you look at it. In the beginning we were traveling to (Children’s Hospital Colorado) Aurora. Early treatments and surgeries and procedures had to be there. After that we were able to move treatment to the Briargate satellite location.”
Noah says he remembers those trips to and from Aurora well. “It wasn't awesome, not good at all. I was feeling exhausted and tired.”
Rebecca says, “Aurora doesn't sound very far away, it's only seventy miles but when you think about having a child that has treatments maybe ten to fifteen days a month, it’s a really difficult thing.”
Noah was able to finish his last few rounds of chemo at the new Hospital, and what a difference being closer to home made. Noah says, “This hospital is going to open up so many opportunities. Other families (like mine) will be able to comfortably go back and forth from home.”
Rebecca says, “This hospital will be a huge difference. To be able to (get treatment) here considering the shorter travel time if you're not feeling well.”
Noah says he is grateful for his cancer journey in both Denver and Colorado Springs and it’s done more than heal his body. “It's been an eye-opening experience. I'm happy I went through it. It changed my character, my perspective of life, and the perspective of my friends about the value of life. There's just a lot of meaning to everything around us.”
“I have great hopes for my son’s future,” says Rebecca who also has a bright outlook for Noah’s future, thanks to the care he received that went far beyond the medicines he was given. “He is going to do great things. Children's has held our hands the entire way. There is not one person here, that I could say anything less than Stellar about, they are amazing. They have gone above and beyond (for us). It's pretty cool to be here at the new hospital and (have Noah) be the first person to finish out treatment, that's pretty neat.”
Noah explains, “I have grown really close with a lot of my nurses and doctors. I see them as friends honestly. People I could talk to if I needed to talk to somebody - or if I was feeling down and needed some answers - I feel like I could come and talk to them.
Noah is determined to pay it forward as he now turns his attention to his college education and eventual profession. “I want to go into nursing specifically oncology. I feel like I've had a lot of first-hand experience with it. I love the people that I've been around, the doctors I've met and everybody here is great. I would love to work in a similar environment and help kids in the same situation as me and give them my outlook and share my odds with them. I think that'll help a lot of kids.”
Through it all, Noah has refused to let his disease define him. He has kept a positive attitude, continuing to fish, hang out with friends, hike and go to the gym regularly. He says, “Me personally I didn't like it when my friends would hold back on certain activities, or wouldn't want to do some things because they felt I'd get too tired and they're worried about me because of my condition. That was something that I said - ‘don't do that, I don't like that’.”
He even took his new hair-style in stride. Noah explains, “I was pulling too many ladies so I had to give all the guys a chance. I still did the same things I just did them with less hair.”
As for being the first young cancer patient to ring the Warrior Bell in the new hospital, Noah knows he won’t be the last, but hopes in the future there won’t be too many more to have to follow in his footsteps. If they do, this newest location for Children’s Hospital Colorado will make a big difference in their journey says Noah, “I'm happy that I can lead that off, but at the same time I hope not too many kids down the road will have to ring that bell. If they do then I'm happy that they made it there, and they are able to ring that bell.”