For the past six months, the Aguilar family of Glen Cove has been dealing with a harrowing challenge: pediatric cancer. Ryan Aguilar, 17, a junior at Glen Cove High School, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, last November. To show support and raise his spirits, relatives, friends and neighbors organized a car parade past the Aguilar home on Doxey Drive last Saturday morning.
“I was surprised,” Ryan said, sitting on his front lawn after watching the procession. “I didn’t think this would happen. It was nice to see everyone.”
His grandparents Barbara and Horace Brown drove in from Brooklyn, but, like Ryan, were not told about what would be happening. “It’s overwhelming,” Horace Brown said of the parade. “We didn’t expect it, and it’s nice to see the support of the neighborhood and the community.”
According to Ryan’s mother, Deirdre Brown Aguilar, the family began taking regular walks during the pandemic for exercise. In November, then 16-year-old Ryan started to complain of leg pain. An X-ray found a lesion on his right tibia, and the cancer diagnosis was confirmed on Nov. 18.
“This day forever changed our life,” Deirdre said.
Ryan began chemotherapy soon afterward to shrink the tumor, and had surgery on Feb. 8 to remove it. He was in a wheelchair for weeks, but by Saturday was using just one crutch.
“He’s almost walking, so this is a big improvement,” his mother said, noting that his chemo treatments should be completed by late July. “The goal is to have him back in school by September.”
Ryan, who stands 6 feet 2, is referred to by friends and family as the Gentle Giant, because “he’s the sweetest teenager you will ever meet,” Deirdre said, “with a smile that stretches from ear to ear.”
Ryan loves listening to Post Malone, writes and self-publishes fan fiction and loves “everything Marvel.” His favorite superhero, he said, is Spider-Man, whom he “loves everything about” — and the character made a special appearance at Saturday’s parade.
The family set up a GoFundMe page last December, which has so far raised more than $17,000 to cover medical expenses, lost wages and other costs associated with Ryan’s cancer. In March, Glen Cove High School dedicated its annual talent show to Ryan and raised roughly $4,000.
The day before the parade, the family received good news in the form of his latest test results, which show signs of improvement. One unfortunate result of the chemotherapy is some necrosis, or premature cell death, in Ryan’s leg, but, his mother said, it can be treated. “I’m feeling optimistic,” she said. “It’s treatable, and we’ll get through it.”
“It’s a good day,” Ryan’s grandmother Barbara Brown said with a smile.
To donate, go to www.gofundme.com/f/ryan-osteosarcoma.