Sixteen is an exciting age. Younger teens look forward to this milestone in eager anticipation, the age when they can finally get a driver’s license, moving one step closer towards independence. But sixteen-year-old Paul Rader was preoccupied by a much more challenging milestone: oral surgery necessary to fix the effects of radiation treatments he received as a little boy.
In December 2000, at just four years old, Paul was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, an extremely rare form of muscle cancer. He underwent a year of chemotherapy and radiation and even though he was often sick, according to his mother Angela, “he handled it well and had a good attitude for a little four year old.” Just five years later, Paul had brain surgery to remove a blood-filled tumor that fortunately was non-cancerous.
In 2013, Paul returned to UNC Hospitals for hyperbaric oxygen treatments to reduce the risk of infection before having oral surgery. Paul needed daily treatments in Chapel Hill, located two-hours away from the Rader’s home in Winston-Salem. To complicate matters Angela was also juggling the everyday responsibilities of caring for Paul’s siblings, Aryn and Rece. The Raders were relieved to find space available at the Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill, a home-away-from-home that would save them a four-hour, daily commute.
Upon arriving at the House, the Raders were instantly struck by the friendly, compassionate staff. They appreciated the opportunity to connect with other families facing the same fears, struggles, and hardships. Having this impromptu support group available each day to offer encouragement and strength comforted the Rader family during Paul’s ongoing medical treatments.
Despite the fact that Paul has endured much more than the average teenager, he remains a positive, inspirational young man. His mother Angela noted, “Paul is selfless. He loves little children and doesn’t mind sharing whatever he has. He has a big heart.”
Perhaps it is because Paul has learned the happiness that comes from giving. Perhaps it is because he realizes we all have some kind of battle we’re fighting and, in the midst of the trials and tribulations of this life, a little kindness and love can go a long way.
Written by: Holly Fredericksen