Ronald DeBernard was diagnosed with PNET brain cancer Easter Sunday of 2013. PNET stands for a Primitive neuroectodermal tumor. It is a very rare tumor that is typically found in children and young adults under the age of 25. Ronald was 25 years old when he was diagnosed, and 26 when he passed away on the 5th of June.
Right from the start, the cancer was very aggressive and hard on Ronald, as well as his family. Doctors didn’t really have an idea on how to treat it because it has rarely been seen in someone at Ronalds age. Treating the brain at his age was completely different than treating a 5 year old child with the same cancer.
Originally, the doctors told Ronald and his family that he would only have 2-3 months to live, due to how aggressive the cancer was and how little they could treat it. This didn’t prevent Ronald or his family from doing anything and everything to fix it. He was always up for a cure. He was willing to fight for his life. Those short 3 months turned into 14 months of a strong fight.
It was December when the tumor started developing more in Ronalds brain. With a 3rd of his brain already removed, the doctors couldn’t operate again. He started to grow very weak. In the morning he would struggle to get out of the bed. He also had a lot of trouble walking around. Slowly, his body started shutting down. He couldn’t talk well at all, and was tired all the time.
As things started to get harder and harder for Ronald, days became shorter and shorter for him. All he wanted to do was rest his eyes because he was too tired to do anything. Its at times like these that true family and friends are recognized. Siblings, cousins, niece’s and nephews all stepped up to help out with things. His family was there for him every step of the way, even when they needed others to be there for them. They stayed strong even though they were hurting on the inside as well.
My best friend and roommate Priscilla, is Ronald’s niece. Her mom is Ronald’s sister. Her grandmother is his mother. So many people who were so close to him were in a lot of pain, and thats when the community stepped up and wanted to help.
Its the little things that people did that really stood out to Ronald’s family. His friends would come and sit at his bedside while he slept, and would speak of all the memories they shared. There was laughing, there was crying, and along the way, friendships were made that were very unexpected. People traveled all the way from California and even Costa Rica to see Ronald in his last few days.
Nobody wanted to grieve his sickness and instead they celebrated the wonderful life that he had. He brightened so many people’s days, and made a mark on this world that we live in. You could say he was quite the intellectual human being.
I sit here smiling writing about this because I know how important Ronald was to his family, his friends, and frankly, everyone around him. Even though I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing him as well as everyone else, I feel that his story should not go unnoticed.
After Ronald passed, the surrounding community sent flowers, dinners, cards, and just stopped by to keep Ronalds family some company.
Ronald’s sister, after everything happened, shared a pretty meaningful quote with her daughter, and my best friend, Priscilla.
She said, “True friends are recognized in some of the darkest moments, in prison, and in a hospital”
So many people were there for them when they needed it the most, and that never went unnoticed.
Priscilla was talking to me the other day and she said, “Its really a shock that something so beautiful, like the friendships I have made, have come from something so terrible. “
Ronald was able to bring so many people together through such a dark time for him, and that, in my opinion, is one heck of a random act of kindness.