MARTINS FERRY - Thanksgiving is a time to count our blessings and take stock of all the wonderful family, friends and relationships that make our lives complete.
Ryan Riethmiller and his family certainly have plenty of the latter. They're rich beyond belief in that department.
Since word got out that Riethmiller was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, folks have been stepping up left and right to help.
The catalyst of the effort is the ''Rally for Rieth'' set for 6 tonight at Linsly's Stifel Field House. It's a basketball game pitting alumni from Riethmiller's Class of 2012 vs. alums from other classes.
Concessions will be served and admission is a minimum donation of $5 per person. Those unable to attend and still wishing to donate can do do by sending a check to the school or to 431 Elm St., Martins Ferry, Ohio 43935 payable to ''Linsly's Rally for Rieth.''
''I was really surprised,'' Riethmiller said when he found out about the game. ''I wasn't expecting anything of this magnitude. I think it says a lot about how close of a family we are at Linsly and that even though we've been gone for a few years, as a class we're still a family.''
The Riethmiller family has been a part of Linsly for nearly three decades. Ryan's dad, Dave, is a veteran faculty member, while siblings Jessica (2000) and Scot (2004) also graduated from the school.
''It's been unbelievable the way the Linsly community and our community here in Martins Ferry has been supportive,'' Dave Riethmiller said. ''The development office at the school has been great at promoting this, along with Ashlynn Reisinger.
''The love, support, prayers and encouragement have been unbelievable.''
Even though Ryan graduated almost two years ago, Linsly is still close to his heart. He's been a steady presence at the school lately helping tutor students in math.
''It's a reason to get out of the house and do something,'' Ryan said. ''I just don't want to set around the house and not do anything.''
Ryan is currently undergoing another round of chemotherapy treatments in Pittsburgh.
''I feel good,'' he said. ''The side effects are at a minimum. I'm losing a bit of hair and I have headaches every now and then.
''My appetite is better than it was. I lost about 60 pounds, but I've stopped losing weight and I've actually gained about five pounds back since then.''
Dave Riethmiller said his son looks as good as he ever has since the ordeal began this past summer.
''I couldn't be more proud of him,'' he said. ''He's handled it better than we have; he's a real trooper.
''He's been unbelievable, he really has. He's shown strong faith and great courage. He hasn't been depressed and he hasn't been angry. His sense of humor is what it's always been.
''He was in a lot of pain with his back, but since that's been alleviated he seems fine.''
Ryan, an offensive lineman at Bucknell University, first started to sense something was wrong last summer when he started losing weight.
''When he got to preseason practice the first of August his coaches were upset with him because he'd lost so much weight,'' Dave said. ''They kept encouraging him to eat and Ryan told them he couldn't eat very much because he felt like he was going to throw up.''
Doctors later told Ryan he had a sports hernia.
''When they told me that I thought they had an answer,'' Ryan said.
Later, doctors thought Riethmiller had a strained groin which was pushing on a nerve. They performed a CAT scan to take a look.
The CAT scan reveal enlarged lymph nodes in his lower abdomen. With that, a CAT scan was done of his upper body. That test found more enlarged lymph nodes.
At that point, physicians wanted to do a biopsy.
''When (Ryan) got the results he wouldn't tell us over the phone,'' Dave said. ''He wanted to tell us in person.''
Dave and his wife, Diane, would have to wait until they made the trip to Bucknell's Lewisburg, Pa. campus to find out what was going on.
''It was a long night and a long 5-hour drive the day,'' Dave said. ''I was prepared for the worst at that point.
''That's when he told us he had Hodgkin's lymphoma.''
Still, it wasn't the correct diagnosis. More tests revealed Ryan had a germ cell tumor.
''It had manifested itself in Ryan's abdomen,'' Dave explained. ''It's a very large tumor that's wrapped around several of his internal organs. They don't believe it's actually in any of the organs, just wrapped around.
''The goal is to shrink it down as much as possible (with chemotherapy) and then operate to take it out''
Dave said it's a Stage 4 tumor - the worst kind.
''But they haven't said it's terminal or anything like that,'' he said. ''The good news is this type of cancer does respond very well to chemo and we think that it is.''
Ryan wanted to stay at Bucknell and keep attending classes while undergoing treatment. Doctors, however, deemed it best he stay at home during the process.
''It was hard and we finally have have an answer as to what it is now,'' Ryan said. ''At least we know what it is and we know that it is treatable and we know that it can be fixed.''
Ryan will continue to undergo treatments until about the first of the year. Then, a long surgery will be scheduled in hopes of removing what's left of the tumor.
''At the end, they will open me up and get the rest out,'' Ryan said.
While he hasn't been able to attend classes, Ryan did make the trip to attend the Bison's final two home games of the season. He saw his teammates post victories against Georgetown on Nov. 17 and against then No. 15 Lehigh on October 26.
''It was really nice to be up there and be a part of (the Lehigh game) with my teammates,'' Ryan said. ''It was a great experience. They were happy to see me.''
Ryan's alma mater also dedicated a game to him this past season - the overtime triumph against Gilmour Academy.
''It was very special,'' Dave said. ''It was quite a game.''