With her bloodwork showing enough improvement after the latest round of chemotherapy and radiation plus a stem-cell injection, Rhyan Loos was discharged Wednesday from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
Loos — the 6-year-old daughter of Missouri men’s basketball special assistant Brad Loos, who’s in the midst of a 16-month battle with cancer — is scheduled to return to the hospital Tuesday for a new round of immunotherapy.
In between, Rhyan accompanied by her mom, Jen, hopped a flight back to Columbia, where she’ll be the belle of the ball Saturday at the second annual Rally for Rhyan benefit in conjunction with the Tigers’ 5 p.m. tipoff against Arkansas at Mizzou Arena.
“It’s a big game for a lot of reasons, but maybe most importantly because we all can do something to help,” third-year coach Kim Anderson said. “I hope people will come to the game. It was great last year. We raised $50,000 in one game (for pediatric cancer research), and I hope we can match that or go higher this weekend.”
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Brad said the proceeds from last year’s event were donated to Sloan Kettering for a natural killer-cell trial, which he will provide on update on during the Mizzou-Arkansas game.
He also expressed his deep appreciation for the support offered by the Columbia and Mizzou communities since Rhyan was diagnosed in early October 2015.
“It’s very humbling and very overwhelming as a parent to know that your child means that much to so many people,” Brad said.
The Loos family — including Rhyan’s older brother, Brady, and younger sister, Charli — has been split up for most of the last six months.
Rhyan and Jen have been living at a Ronald McDonald House in New York when she’s not confined to the hospital in-patient for treatment.
“That’s probably one of the hardest things of this whole deal,” Brad said. “Basically, Jen and Rhyan have been in New York for the better part of the last five or six months, especially since Thanksgiving since we found the brain tumor. She’s had a couple three- or four-day breaks mixed in there, but, for the most part, they’ve been New Yorkers. They’re city girls. They’re like ‘Sex and the City,’ Sarah Jessica Parker.”
Originally, Rhyan was diagnosed with stage-four neuroblastoma. She had surgery to remove a tumor on the adrenal gland above her kidney last March.
Bone scans during the next few months were promising, but the Loos family was rocked all over again with the discovery of the brain tumor Nov. 24 and subsequent surgery.
“It’s been tremendously emotional for me, because I’ve watched that family grow up,” Anderson said. “I hired Brad when it was just Brad then there was Jen then Brady and Rhyan and Charli. I can remember Brad chasing after Jen at Central Missouri when she was a soccer GA and he was a basketball GA. I’m thankful for all the people who have supported and continue to support.”
Brad’s father, Austin Peay coach Dave Loos, also is fighting cancer. He had surgery to remove a tumor on his colon last summer and recently took a leave of absence for chemotherapy to treat a cancerous lymph node.
Jen’s parents, John and Laura Weigel, have helped filled the void in Columbia, where Brad is often a single parent managing the couple’s other two kids.
“Mentally, that’s something that’s taken some getting used to, but you’ve just got to get to it,” said Brad, who’s also spent his fair share of days in New York. “We know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. We just don’t quite see it yet.”
On Saturday, Missouri will be trying to end a 13-game losing streak, which matches the program record for longest in its 111-year history set two years ago during Anderson’s first as head coach.
Rhyan’s circumstance puts the on-court struggles in a different perspective.
“Losses don’t consume me the way that they did before this,” Brad said. “Before this, a loss I thought was the end of the world. Don’t get me wrong, it still bothers me quite a bit, but I go home and see my kids and realize there’s more to life than basketball. It is just a game. It’s my job. It pays my bills, and we want to win in the worst way, but this has put things in perspective and makes me understand that family is what’s most important.”
Seeing the Loos family’s situation up close and personal has been eye-opening for the entire Mizzou team.
“There’s more to life than basketball,” sophomore forward Kevin Puryear said. “There are people with bigger problems than losing a game. That’s the perspective of how I see it. We are blessed to be here in a Power Five conference with a chance to compete game in and game out.”
Practice has become Brad’s refuge.
“That’s the best two hours of my day,” he said, “because I get to forget about cancer and I get to forget about real life for a little bit and worry about basketball. … Going to practice and going to games, that’s my release.”
Mizzou is also trying to halt a seven-game losing streak at Mizzou Arena, which is the longest home skid since the building opened in 2004.
Perhaps the expected emotional bounce from playing for something bigger, from Rallying for Rhyan, will get the Tigers over the hump for the first time since Dec. 6.
“Obviously, that game has a lot more magnitude than any other game,” sophomore guard Terrence Phillips said. “That’s part of our family. Hopefully, the game will bring a lot of people and a lot of energy to our building. Last year, we were going through kind of the same situation with a losing streak and got a win against Tennessee. Hopefully, that game can get is really going and bring some more passion than we already have.”