Sometimes we don't know what each day will bring. We may think we know what is going to happen. We may have it all planned. But then everything can change.
Travis and Heather Turnage thought their daughter, Ryleigh, would be born with no issues, but she was born prematurely. She spent 66 days in the NICU and was diagnosed with periventricular leukomalacia, which the National Institute of Health describes as being characterized by the death of the white matter of the brain due to softening of the brain tissue. Babies born with PVL are at risk for motor disorders, delayed mental development, coordination problems and vision and hearing impairments.
The biggest complication Ryleigh faced was with her muscles. She had a hard time walking and had to wear braces on her legs to help her walk.
The family thought they had only that to deal with when, at age 2, Ryleigh had her first MRI, which showed spinal fluid build-up. Further testing has shown no change over time, so there is no reason to treat it.
On June 22, 2021, Ryleigh had surgery to insert an implant to straighten Ryleigh's leg, and doctors did some lengthening of the tendons and hamstring. The doctor the Turnages found to do the surgery was in Florida and out of their insurance network, which meant added expenses for the treatment.
The surgery was a success, and Ryleigh had been living the fun, activity filled life of a 7-year-old girl.
Ryleigh and her family thought they were having a normal day of fun on April 6 when a 4-wheeler accident sent Ryleigh to the hospital for a CT scan. It was discovered then that she had a brain tumor.
Doctors removed the tumor on April 13, and Ryleigh was diagnosed with medulloblastoma cancer. It is a fast growing cancer that forms in the back of the brain, according to Mayo Clinic.
There were no cancer cells found in the spinal fluid. Doctors told the family they had gotten all of the tumor, but with no treatment, there was an 80% chance it would return. With radiation and chemotherapy, they said the chances were 80% that it would not come back.
A chemo port was put in on April 28 so Ryleigh could start chemo treatments.
On the morning of May 11, the plan was for Ryleigh to get scheduled for proton radiation to be conducted at St. Jude's in Memphis. This type of radiation is more targeted and not offered at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
Ryleigh would have to have radiation five days a week for six weeks. Then she would undergo chemotherapy at UMMC for six weeks. She would be admitted once a week and stay in the hospital for a few days each time.
The family thought this was the plan until the afternoon of May 11, when tests came back showing a mass in Ryleigh's brain.
It was thought that the cancer had already returned, and Ryleigh was no longer eligible for the radiation at St Jude's.
Ryleigh underwent another surgery Monday to remove the new mass.
Everyone who knew what was happening watched Facebook closely for updates from Heather all day Monday.
It was 4:16 p.m. when Heather let followers know that the mass was indeed a tumor, but that it was believed to have already been there as a sort of "sister tumor" to the one that was originally removed. It was hidden and was looked at as something else on the scans.
Now, the thought is that Ryleigh will get to undergo the lower dose radiation and will go back to the plan from early in the day on May 11.
However, as the plan proceeds and changes, the Turnage family will need plenty of support through prayers and donations to pay for expenses along the way.
Ryleigh keeps getting knocked down but gets back up every time. It will take a village to help her out though. Marion County is that village.
Jesus took what little the people had and turned it into much to meet the need at the time.
On May 29, a "Loaves and Fishes Day" has been planned as a way for area churches to help. Churches are asked to take up a love offering, and if each person gives just $1, it will make a huge difference.
"All help and support is appreciated," organizer Bonnie Hudson said. "They need financial support, but they need so much more as well. Everyone can do something even if it is a word of encouragement or a prayer."
The first Loaves and Fishes fundraiser was in 2006. The money goes straight to the family to use as they see fit. The organizers do not count the money, and they feel it is not their business how much is raised.
The fundraiser is managed by a group of women who get together and just get it done. There is a core group, but they also involve someone from the previous fundraisers as well as a family representative of the current recipient.
The group this time is made up of Hudson, Amy Terrell, Kim Pennington, April Cook, Wendy Bracey, Becky Gates Prine, Dal Murray, Ginny Warren Kemp and Destiny Hart.
Donations can be sent to Loaves and Fishes, PO Box 1171, Columbia, MS 39429 or dropped off at The Columbian-Progress at 318 Second St. Please make checks out to "Loaves and Fishes c/o The Ryleigh Turnage Family."