When it comes to sports, the Rice family of Farmington Hills doesn’t let anything get in the way – not even mom Kat’s brain cancer diagnosis and treatment.
This weekend, “Flyin’ Brian” Rice – just 11 years old – will compete in three snowboarding events at the 2016 USA-SA National Championships. But before the family leaves for the Colorado competition, Kat will meet with her team of doctors at the University of Michigan’s Brain Tumor Center to discuss the game plan following her last surgery.
“I still have a long road ahead of me, but I was bound and determined not to let that interfere with Brian,” she said. “I knew he had to get ranked this year to get sponsored next year.” Ultimately, she said, Brian’s goal is to compete in the Olympics, which he’s eligible to do at age 13.
When Brian got interested in snowboarding at age 5, the family – including dad, Brian, and sister Kabri, age 9 – started traveling to northern Michigan, getting him on the slopes as much as possible. While he had enjoyed other sports, playing everything from baseball to lacrosse, snowboarding has become a true passion.
Kat was first diagnosed in 2008 with a very rare ganglioglioma brain tumor. After a successful surgery and long recovery, things seemed to be going well. Then last year, she landed in the emergency room with symptoms that defied a diagnosis. After going toe-to-toe with her doctors, she tracked down a second opinion at University of Michigan, where she underwent an MRI. On January 6 of this year, doctors confirmed her cancer had returned.
Just a few weeks later, with another surgery looming, Kat got to see Flyin’ Brian compete in his first event at Mt Brighton, where he finished in 3rd place. Brian is now ranked in 1st place regionally for Half-pipe, 3rd in Slope style, and 3rd in Brodercross.
Brian, who attends Power Upper Elementary, and Kabri, a student at Hillside Elementary, are both doing well academically. Kat said she has been honest about her health and received tremendous support from Farmington Public Schools – and the community, which donated $6,000 to help with her medical expenses.
A former boxer and basketball player, Kat has quickly recovered from her more recent surgery. Although not working outside the home, she has committed to being an ambassador for a special University of Michigan program for people with her type of cancer. But this weekend, it’s all about her son.
“I’m just really proud of him,” she said.
Friends have set up a GoFundMe.com page to help Flyin’ Brian pursue his dreams:
Correction: Brian’s school was misidentified in the original version of this post.