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Published on July 01, 2015

For some people, getting a free t-shirt is no big deal. But for 16-year-old Ryan Dieringer, free t-shirts are giving him the strength to battle cancer.

Earlier this year, the talented three-sport athlete and straight "A" student at Columbus Catholic High School in Marshfield began experiencing severe pain in his hip. Tests revealed he had a tumor in his sacrum, which is a triangular bone at the base of the spine that is wedged between the hipbones. Because the tumor was encased in nerve roots, Ryan had to have a biopsy. After two weeks of waiting, Ryan and his family received the news that he had cancer – Ewing's sarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer that typically affects children and teenagers.

Ryan is currently undergoing nine to 12 months of treatment, beginning with six rounds of chemotherapy – during which he spends two to five days in the hospital. That will be followed by radiation and then more chemo. He began round five – a five-day treatment – on Monday.

The battle Ryan is fighting now is unlike any other he's ever faced. As a soccer, basketball and baseball player, Ryan is used to being surrounded by teammates who work together to reach a common goal. And as he undergoes treatment, his team of supporters is growing.

Dr. Laurel Rudolph, a sports medicine physician at Marshfield Clinic, started a campaign to have t-shirts or jerseys sent to Ryan from as many schools, sports teams and health organizations as possible. The goal is for Ryan to have a different shirt for each day of his treatment, as a way to give him encouragement and show him how many people are supporting him during this life-saving journey.

So far the response has been overwhelming. He's received shirts and jerseys from all over the country. One of the shirts came from the Dean Hematology and Oncology Clinic. Ryan and his family are very grateful for the support, and shared this message on Facebook: "Ok, we know we're not supposed to have favorites. But we do have a favorite — we have a favorite athletic trainer. Katie Luttropp is definitely the coolest trainer we know. And her sister, Megan, seems pretty cool too. Megan works at Dean Clinic in Madison and she took it upon herself to grab a shirt from work and have all of her coworkers sign it and send it to Ryan. Thank you, Megan, for thinking of Ryan and for sending the shirt and supporting him! It means a ton. You, and all of your coworkers, are definitely #RPDStrong!"

Ryan's journey is far from over. To follow his story, search for "RPDstrong" on Facebook. And if you'd like to show him your support, feel free to send him a t-shirt (size medium) with some words of encouragement to:

Laurel Rudolph, MD

Marshfield Clinic

1000 Oak Ave

Marshfield, WI 54449

When Ryan has completed his treatment and the cancer is in remission, all of the shirts will be sewn together to create a victory quilt.

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