Battling Bruin: Riley

Posted October 2014

Eleven year old Riley Kim graduated from the 5th grade at Dearborn Elementary Charter Academy in Northridge, Calif. on June 5, 2014. He is an intellectually gifted student who served on the elementary school student council and looked forward to attending Patrick Henry Science and Technology Magnet for middle school. Riley wants to grow up to be a scientist and invent a time machine. He wants to one day go to the UCLA or Cal Tech so he can get a great education and be close to home.

On July 29, 2014, Riley’s middle school plans were put on hold. Riley was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood cancer, stage 4 alveolar Rhabodmyosarcoma. Instead of building rockets and learning how to use a locker, Riley is undergoing intensive chemotherapy at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital for at least the next year and undergo radiation treatment. For the time being, the cancer and treatment for it have taken away Riley’s childhood and the things he enjoys for the time being. He can’t enjoy many of the activities he once did. Riley knows this new cancer fighting life is a temporary setback and for now there are still video games and YouTube videos of other people playing video games when even pressing his fingers is too much.

Riley lives with his mom (Rebecca), dad (Andy) and his 8-year-old brother (Carlo) in Northridge. Sometimes his 19-year-old sister, Elizabeth, lives with him too. He is the joy of all of their lives and is a funny, kind, caring, gentle and loving boy. Riley’s big for his age, but every bit the 11-year-old with a naive soul and heart of gold.

Riley has always been an excellent student and is a self-described nerd. He loves all things science and is an avid reader; preferring it to just about any other activity. While book stores are hard to come by these days, Riley loves to hang out in them when the chance arises and always finds a stack of books he wants to read. He consumes Greek mythology and while he isn’t much of an artist himself, he has a great appreciation for it. Next to his bed hangs Van Gogh’s The Starry Night which Riley requested from Santa a couple of Christmases ago.

Sports have never been “his thing” as Riley says. When he was in first grade, he said P.E. should be called P.T. for physical torture. His extreme sense of justice and fairness leads him away from enjoying competitive sports. Riley should be named and honorary fish because loves to be in the water, the pool or the ocean and can effortless swim for hours, but the suggestion of training to swim faster than others is not appealing at all. He plays the guitar and a mean recorder.

Riley says since his mom told him he has cancer, he has a new concept of time. He has always had compassion for the pain and suffering of others, but he never thought anything bad would happen to him or anyone in his family. Now he says time hurts. Riley misses hanging out with his old friends too, but he worries when he does see them, they won’t like the new Riley. He gets up every day ready to battle this cancer demon. Riley and his family are sustained by the support of the community at large. Their motto is “One Human Family” and have created a Team Riley support page on Facebook.

The UCLA Spirit Squad sends their love, prayers and support to this month’s Battling Bruin, Riley Kim.

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