Ryan Arnold is all boy, his mother said.
The 4-year-old loves trucks, tractors and construction equipment, and he's wanted to be a farmer ever since he could talk.
But in January, Ryan's parents, Chad and Becky Arnold of Thomasville, received news that no family ever wants to hear.
Ryan was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) -- an inoperable brain tumor.
This type of tumor is near the brain stem, said Dr. Melanie Comito of Penn State Children's Hospital, who is one of Ryan's doctors. Its location makes it inoperable, she said.
Of the 100 children diagnosed with cancer each year in central Pennsylvania, about 20 have brain tumors, Comito said. Three or four of those are DIPG,
The brain stem connects to nerves that control eye
and facial movements, as well as arm strength. Sometimes a child will lose strength on one side of the body, prompting a checkup. Tumors near the brain stem also can cause subtle differences in a child's behavior, tipping families off to a problem.
How they found out: Ryan was eating at a restaurant with his family when his father noticed he wasn't looking them in the eye when he talked.
He reminded Ryan to look at people when he spoke, then realized Ryan wasn't doing it on purpose.
The Arnolds said they took Ryan to a pediatric ophthalmologist, who scheduled an MRI and recommended surgery for the eye problem. They wanted a second opinion before proceeding.
Becky researched online and found the eye problem could have been the result of head trauma or an indication of a brain tumor. The Arnolds arranged to have Ryan's MRI moved up; that revealed the tumor.
Their family is unfortunately familiar with cancer, since Chad was diagnosed with leukemia in March 2011, and his mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in August 2011.
Ryan went through more testing at the Hershey Medical Center, and the diagnosis was confirmed.
"What I wouldn't give for it to just be surgery today," Becky Arnold said. "I've never lost control of myself until that moment. Someone literally had to pick me up off the floor."
No cure has been found for DIPG, but most families choose to participate in some type of clinical trial, Comito said.
Treatment: Of the five treatment center options, the Arnold family chose the program at the National Institutes of Health because it was the furthest along in the trial program.
Each week, they travel to Bethesda, Md., for Ryan's daily radiation treatment. They spend the night at the Children's Inn at the institute and do family activities for the rest of the day, returning to Thomasville for the weekends.
Because the average child with Ryan's diagnosis is expected to live for another year, the Arnold family tries to spend as much time together as they can, and to live as normally as possible. Ryan has an older sister, Ellie, 8, and a younger brother, Jered, 2.
Becky Arnold is home full time with the children, and Chad Arnold takes time off from his job as operations manager at the York Wastewater Treatment Plant so they can travel as a family to Ryan's treatments.
Fundraisers: Various members of the York County community are organizing fundraisers for the family to help cover medical expenses.
---A Zumbathon will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday at the York County 4-H Center, 771 Stoverstown Road. Instructors from High Pointe Fitness Center are donating their time to lead the event.
"You don't need to know how to dance, you can just come out to support Ryan," said organizer Michelle Boyer. "The instructors are amazing."
Anyone may participate for $10. There is no pre-registration for the Zumbathon, and anyone with questions may email Boyer at email@example.com.
---Tickets for a benefit dinner for Ryan Arnold that evening sold out in two weeks.
---Salon Blu, 2983 East Prospect Road in East York, raised $8,000 at a cut-a-thon for Ryan on March 10.
---On Tuesday, 10 percent of every dinner check at Texas Roadhouse on Mount Zion Road will be donated to the Arnolds.
---A motorcycle ride, bowl-a-thon, golf tournament, spaghetti dinner and more have been planned for April.
"I didn't know I had so many friends," Becky said. "Then something like this happens, and you realize just how many you have. People are willing to do things for you."
"The most important thing is prayer and positive thoughts," she said. "That's why I take interviews -- so that more people know and just send a positive thought his way."
-- Reach Chelsea Shank at 505-5432 or firstname.lastname@example.org.