Deric’s Care Team Helps Turn His Story Into a Happy One

Dec 21 2023

Deric Ritchey had been battling headaches and dizziness for a while, which culminated one day at work when he lost his vision.

He recalls heading to his truck outside to rest for a moment when his wife happened to call. As a registered nurse, Katie Ritchey was concerned and told her husband to go to the emergency room.

Once there and after several tests, our team at Mercy Health – Perrysburg Hospital diagnosed Deric (pictured above with his family) with a brain tumor. 

“Five days later, I ended up having it removed,” Deric says of the three-centimeter tumor. “When they removed it, they found that it had originated in my GE junction.”

From there, Deric was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer of the esophagus known as gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma, which originates in the gastroesophageal, or GE, junction. This is the area where the esophagus and stomach join.

This diagnosis started with surgery by Zubair Ahammad, DO, one of our neurosurgeons, who removed the tumor at Mercy Health – St. Vincent Medical Center. Deric was then given an extensive treatment plan at Mercy Health – Perrysburg Cancer Center and follow-up Gamma Knife™ treatment.

Gamma Knife™ is an advanced form of radiation therapy and the standard of care to treat many forms of brain tumors as well as other neurological conditions.

The Gamma Knife™ isn’t actually a knife – no incisions are made. Instead, the “knife” refers to 192 individual beams of gamma rays converging into one focal point and precisely targeting the area of the brain that needs to be treated, minimizing damage to healthy tissue.

“I went in kind of nervous, but Dr. Patel calmed my nerves quite a bit,” Deric shares. “It was comfortable, isolated, quiet. You don’t feel much or hear anything. I didn’t feel any side effects. It was one and done, and they got everything removed. It turned out to be the easiest part of the whole process.”

Suketu Patel, MD, one of our radiation oncologists, noted that Gamma Knife is targeted to allow for precise treatment of tumors, saving other areas of the brain from potential radiation. He adds that Deric’s successful Gamma Knife treatment, coupled with his positive reaction to the chemotherapy and immunotherapy led by Adnan Al-Khalili, MD, medical oncologist, has turned Deric’s story into a happy one.

“He had an MRI of the brain that showed everything was clear there and he had a PET scan that showed a complete response to his metastatic disease to his systemic therapies,” Dr. Patel says. “He is in a class of patients that truly responded well to the treatment plan.”

A father of two young daughters, Deric shares that before undergoing treatment, he sought second opinions for his diagnosis and treatment plans to ensure that he was on the right path.

He notes that his research led him back to his hometown hospital and the treatment program outlined for him.

“The Mercy Health team helped us quite a bit and helped us through this,” he says. “We did our own research, we had second opinions, but we stayed close to home and it all worked out great.”

Even though it has been a rough year for Deric and his family, the 39-year-old has no hesitation when counting his many blessings.

“Today, the cancer is almost gone,” Deric said. “There’s only one little spot left on the lymph node near the kidney.”

While he is grateful for the continual improvement of his cancer diagnosis, Deric shares that the chemo journey has been a taxing one. But while he has experienced a year of often feeling, quite frankly, terrible, it hasn’t stopped him from seeing the bright side and, more importantly, being there for his wife and two young girls.

“My focus from the start is that I didn’t want things to change for my wife and kids,” he says. “Obviously, with all the tests and time feeling like garbage, that puts a damper on things, but I still work every day, and my kids are in sports and I make sure I go to their games. I’m trying to keep everything the same and ‘business as usual.’”

So, as he enters the holiday season and gears up for a Christmas packed with family gatherings – not to mention the joy of celebrating his wife’s upcoming milestone birthday – Deric is grateful for his supportive family and friends, caring team at Mercy Health and progress toward better health.

This holiday season, we are celebrating by spreading the good news! Read more grateful stories, like this one, that feature our team members, patients and the wonderful communities we are blessed to serve.

Also, learn more about the cancer care and oncology services we provide at Mercy Health.

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