Finding faith in heartbreak

Ross family has two children with life-threatening ailments

By Joe Southern
jsouthern@fortbendstar.com

(Photos by Joe Southern)
Kristi Ross, center poses with two of her three children. On the left is Andrew, 8, and on the right is Abigail, 10.

Late last summer Andrew Ross began experiencing stomachaches.

At first his parents, David and Kristi Ross, didn’t pay much mind to it. It’s not that they were not concerned about their son; they just had bigger worries with his younger sister. Grace, 4, was born with Down syndrome and was preparing to undergo her sixth open-heart surgery.

“Grace was born with Down syndrome and a very broken heart,” Kristi said. “She had a lot of abnormalities and when she was two weeks old had her first surgery. She had four surgeries on her heart by the time she was 15 months old.”

Facing that, a tummy ache seemed rather minor. Six months later, it would become paramount.

“Andrew’s tummy pains became increasingly more intense and more frequent,” Kristi said.

When she took Andrew for his well child checkup six months later his doctor noted on his growth chart that his weight had plateaued. The pediatrician was also concerned about his stomach pains and ordered an ultrasound.

“The technician was spending a lot of time on his liver … I knew that was not normal,” Kristi said.

Andrew was admitted to Texas Children’s Hospital in the Medical Center for a liver biopsy. They found lesions on his liver and lymph nodes but did not immediately suspect cancer.

Andrew Ross throws out the ceremonial first pitch at a Skeeters game May 23 at Constellation Field.

“They crossed cancer off the list with a pencil,” Kristi said.

The hospital discharged Andrew into the care of a liver specialist. The pathologist at Texas Children’s, however, was bothered by the results and kept conducting tests. That’s when the discovery was made. Andrew has pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors – a stage four cancer. It’s the same, rare form of cancer that Steve Jobs had.

“It’s a terminal illness,” Kristi said. “Technically there is no cure for this type of cancer.”

The Ross family is not giving up the fight. With faith in God and cutting-edge technology, they are moving forward in the fight against cancer. The problem, Kristi said, is how extremely rare the cancer is. Very few people get it, and even then it mostly strikes older adults in their 60s and 70s. It’s almost unheard of in an 8-year-old child.

“It’s so rare there is no protocol for treating it,” Kristi said.

Andrew Ross arrives on Constellation Field May 23 in a green Camaro from Classic Chevrolet. Andrew, 8, who is battling cancer, was honored by the Skeeters before the second game of a doubleheader that day.

They’ve taken him to a specialist in Denver and this week will have him at the University of Iowa for treatment.

“They are the only center of excellence for this type of cancer,” she said.

Through all the pain and time lost for treatments, Andrew has maintained some semblance of a normal life.

“He’s been on massive, massive doses of pain medication,” Kristi said. “He’s always tired but by God’s grace he still went to school, is still on the swim team and still doing life.”

Between Grace’s heart surgeries and Andrew’s cancer treatments, the Ross’s have been in a long fight for the lives of their children, but they have not fought alone. Their church, Sanctuary Fellowship; their school, Campbell Elementary; and the community have held fundraisers and poured out endless love and support for them.

“We are so blessed by our community,” Kristi said.

Even Sheriff Troy Nehls and local law enforcement agencies have raised funds for the Ross family.

“All of these fundraisers have helped me to focus on our family and not have to worry about cost,” Kristi said. “It’s such a gift for these people to be so supportive of our family.”

One of the biggest sources of support, however, comes from within the family.

“Our oldest, Abigail, who is 10, is the world’s best big sister, that’s for sure,” Kristi said.

Sugar Land Skeeters pitcher Chris Treibt hands a ball to Andrew Ross following the first pitch at a game May 23 while supporters release green balloons in honor of Andrew’s fight against cancer.

Easily overshadowed by her younger siblings struggles, Abigail has been their biggest cheerleader and source of support and encouragement. Kristi said she can’t say enough about the selfless attitude Abigail has demonstrated with her siblings.

On May 23, Andrew became the center of attention during pre-game ceremonies at a Sugar Land Skeeters baseball game. The game, the second of a doubleheader, was supposed to be a night to honor Campbell Elementary. The school turned it into a fundraiser for Andrew’s family. Andrew’s favorite color is green and hundreds of people came out dressed in green “Andrew’s Army” T-shirts. Green balloons were released from the field and Classic Chevrolet loaned a green sports car for Andrew to ride in to home plate. He got to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, sit in the dugout and take batting practice with the team. The players also posed for a photo with him wearing Andrew’s Army shirts while he sported a custom Skeeters jersey.

“There are no words to explain how they cared for Andrew and our family,” Kristi said. “They made that night so special for him.”

Despite the long odds against their son and daughter, David and Kristi Ross have maintained a positive attitude about life and their struggles. Kristi, 38, is a pharmacy rep for Pfizer and David, 37, is a teacher at Tenney School. They place their trust and hope in God.

“He’s been faithful to us throughout every step of this journey,” Kristi said. “We have so much hope for everything we’re going through.”

Those interested in following their journey can do so on Kristi’s blog at www.RossFamilyLove.blogspot.com.

To make a donation, visit www.gofundme.com/andrews-army.

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