EDMOND, Okla. – Home movies capture Rian Sanderson’s spirit. You can watch the 11-year-old in a tickle war with her little brother, but there was another war, with cancer, that she just couldn’t win.
“It’s hard you know. I sat there for 26 days and just watched her die,” said Rian’s mother, Christy Sanderson.
Sanderson noticed her little volleyball champ wasn’t breathing well. She took her to the doctor for what she thought was pneumonia.
“She hadn’t ever complained she was sick,” said Sanderson.
Doctors told her Rian was battling a tumor. The cancer: Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma.
The tumor took over her right side.
However, the prognosis was good at first.
“It just all happened so fast,” said Sanderson.
48 hours later, Rian’s health, especially her lungs, worsened. Doctors told Sanderson they need to put Rian in an induced coma.
“So that was the last time I got to talk to her.” Sanderson comforted her little girl one last time.
“We just explained to her that she was going to have to be put on a machine so it could put oxygen in her blood, and that we loved her very much and we’d see her when she woke up.”
Days turned into weeks. Sanderson held Rian’s hand the whole time, telling her stories about her beloved volleyball. She reminding her she needed to come home and play with her bike.
“We believe she could hear us. So we were always talking to her, telling her positive things, telling her about what we were going to do,” said Sanderson. “I really thought until the day I left without her that she’d be coming home.”
A dark moment, Rian died one week before her 12th birthday.
Now her parents, grandparents have their memories. They talk about how she had plans to play volleyball at the University of Oklahoma and how she wanted to work with animals.
People across the country write the family saying Rian’s battle, while lost, changed them.
Sanderson hopes sharing her daughter’s story will remind others life is short. “Just don’t take it for granted, ” said Sanderson. “You know, one day I had a healthy volleyball player at volleyball practice, and not even a month later, she passed away.”
To donate to the Rian Sanderson Memorial Fund, click here.