"Can't Stop Colin" isn't just a mantra for the Schlereth Family. It is a way of life. Remember that cool video the St. Louis Blues tweeted out in late January about a young man returning to the ice after a long battle with cancer. Well, here is his story. Meet Colin.
Colin Schlereth hasn't endured a normal childhood, but the one thing he has never let go of is the pursuit of happiness. He has digested a different value of life and how to live through a unique battle with cancer, one that caught up to him nearly two years ago. Armed with an excellent team of doctors and nurses at St. Louis Children's Hospital and an assist from the St. Louis Blues, he is thriving today. It wasn't easy this bright.
Colin's mom, Becky, remembers the early warning signs. "It's hard to watch because he started skating at age 3. He's a beautiful skater and was going up and up. Then, it was an entire year of watching him deteriorate on the ice. We wondered if it was his skates or something making him disengage. It didn't make sense. We bought two pairs of skates. Then he got a hockey concussion because he was so unbalanced and got thrust into the boards on a hit.
The concussion was only the first warning sign. After three months of continued problems, headaches, bigger falls and dizziness, Becky called a sports concussion doctor. An MRI revealed the tumor.
In June of 2014, Colin was diagnosed with Stage 4 Medulloblastoma, a type of brain tumor found in the 4th ventricle of the fluid filled area of the cerebellum. He underwent surgery and 100 percent of the tumor was removed. Armed with an excellent team of doctors and nurses at St. Louis Children's Hospital and a never quit attitude, Colin was back on the ice three months later. "If he felt good, we went. He may skate twice a week or once a month. He was doing what he could do to get back to where he was. He is nowhere near the player he was before but he is playing. He hasn't complained. He is happy to be out there," Becky added.
Becky's mom couldn't thank the Children's staff enough. "It's an awesome place. From the very beginning, they told us we are a team. They do everything for you."
For Colin though, his everyday activities weren't action figures and hockey cards. It was learning a whole new vocabulary many boys and girls don't deal with. Becky elaborated about his unique skill set that he acquired. "At Children's Hospital, they are part of the team. They hear everything. The life expectancy. I can't fathom what his nine year brain was trying to comprehend at the time. He knew about the type of chemo. He knew what medicines to add to get rid of nausea. They get this new vocabulary. They take charge of themselves and they are only 9."
Via Becky's brother, a hockey coach at Chesterfield and Kelly Chase, Colin got a visit from a fan favorite. "It goes all the way back to when he had surgery. T.J. Oshie came out to the house. No media. Very quiet. It was hard. Colin could barely see. He just got out of brain surgery. Oshie brought him a stick, gave him a signed jersey and just had a nice one on one with him. We went to a game and met Randy Girsch(Director of Community Relations)."
Months later, when Children's Hospital asked Colin to be their kid at Pedal to The Cause, the Schlereth's saw Girsch again and he introduced Colin to Ryan Reaves and other Blues. Colin got a stick from Reaves and told me that the enforcer told him, "You can use this to score or slash people with." A relationship was born.
Colin's fight with cancer isn't done yet. After weeks of radiation and 13 months of chemotherapy from 2014-15, Colin's cancer is neither in remission or cured. It's in a holding pattern. "Right now, he's got a 75% chance of survival and every year without a recurrence, he gains five percent. There is a high chance of recurrence with this cancer. Every three months, we go in for a MRI and they monitor him very closely. So August of 2017 is a good clear and August of 2020 is cured."
The little things are good enough for Becky, her husband Rick and Colin these days. Colin can see, walk, run and is getting better with school work. "In his world, he beat it. He can run. That was taken away from him because the type of tumor threw off his balance and coordination so he is getting that back now."
A simple motto carries them. Be happy. " I truly believe that power of mind is as strong as the power of what is inside your body. If you are happy, things are better. We are going to smile, laugh and be happy."
The fight isn't over yet, but Colin is finally living the normal kid life. Playing hockey. Thinking about lacrosse. Watching his favorite player, Ryan Reaves, kick butt and enjoying his family.
When I asked why his story is so great, Colin was quick to answer. "Because I'm awesome." Right on, kid. Colin redefines toughness and at the age of 10, is an ambassador not only for the fight against cancer but also for the pursuit of happiness. You can't stop him.