ARCHER CITY (KFDX/KJTL) — An Archer City one-year-old is facing a diagnosis and medical procedures no parent should ever have to see their child endure.
He has a rare eye cancer, called retinoblastoma, and a local radio station is making sure this family doesn’t have to fight alone.
At just a year old, Riplee Veitenheimer is proving how tough he really is.
“He’s a fighter, this one’s a fighter,” Riplee’s mother, Anya Veitenheimer, said.
It was by accident Riplee’s parents, Anya and and Cody Veitenheimer, noticed something wasn’t right in his eye.
“It was like an act of God that I found it at all,” Anya said. “We just happened to be putting eye drops into his eye, and I noticed I could see through his pupil, and I know now that what I was seeing was his tumor.”
Doctors discovered two tumors, and Riplee was diagnosed with a rare eye cancer called retinoblastoma. The cancer has already claimed one of his eyes.
“The questions and the stares are really hard, and I’m ready for him to have some normal back,” Anya said.
Riplee is a fighter, and, believe it or not, he’s also a teacher.
“Before they took his eye out, he was able to teach six up-and-coming doctors how to find this cancer,” Anya said. “Every time Riplee has blood drawn, his blood will be sent off and tested to help hopefully find a cure for retinoblastoma.”
99.9 KLUR Radio DJ Scotty Preston knows the “c-word” all too well. He’s had his many bouts with cancer.
“I know every time I have to go down to Dallas to have radiation on my brain, it’s $100 a trip,” Preston said. “And we’re looking to get a prosthetic eye for Riplee, and he’s such a cool kid.”
The radio station is putting on a benefit at Texas Nite Life with a live and silent auction.
“This is a win-win situation,” Preston said. “You get some really neat stuff that you get to buy and also help this family out with their expenses.”
To Anya, this means the world.
“You know you’re loved, but you don’t know how loved you are until something like this happens, and we’re loved, and we appreciate everyone,” Anya said.
She said there’s something every parent needs to know that she wishes she had known sooner: “Take pictures with flash because you could save your babies life. If I had found it maybe two weeks later, that it could have been in his brain.”
Her photos of Riplee’s eye showing up gray and white in pictures instead of red go back to June. Gray or white, instead of red, is a clear indication of something wrong, but this family believes he’s fighting this battle for a reason.
“He’s gonna do big things,” Anya said. “He’s gonna help someone someday, I truly truly believe that.”
A little boy going to do big things and his grateful family are hoping Texomans will come and be a part of it.
The benefit for Riplee is Sunday, November 7, from 1 to 5 p.m. at Texas Nite Life. There will be a spaghetti dinner, plus the live and silent auction.
Riplee is getting his new eye Friday, November 12. Tests the day before his appointment will help doctors determine if chemotherapy is necessary.
The retinoblastoma could be genetic, and if it is, Riplee will need chemotherapy. That would also put him at risk for other cancers and require the Veitenheimers’ other children to be tested.
So far, Riplee has had two surgeries. The first was to remove the eye, the second was for a temporary eye that ended up not fitting.