When he learned at age 17 that he had a rare germ cell cancer, Ryan Lohan said it was like he got hit by a bus.
“You are never expected to be told that,” he said.
He got sick, went through chemotherapy, suffered reactions to drugs and underwent two surgeries.
But this week, a year and a half later, life looks much brighter for the 19-year-old University of Florida freshman. Lohan has been in remission for a year, his hair is back, and on Thursday, he left with his family for the San Francisco Bay Area where he will attend the Super Bowl.
“It’s awesome,” Lohan said. “I have been counting down the days.”
Lohan, of Bonita Springs, asked the Make-A-Wish Southern Florida organization to grant his wish to attend the game. That was more than a year ago, but he was too sick to go last year. The organization honored the wish this year.
This weekend, Lohan will join 12 others with life-threatening medical conditions from around the country at the Super Bowl 50 through the Make-A-Wish programs, with the help of the NFL and others.
Make-A-Wish arranged for the limousine to pick up Lohan and his family early Thursday to take them to the flight to San Francisco.
Lisa Milligan, Lohan’s wish granter, said awarding the wishes of kids who suffer life-threatening heath conditions has a positive impact on them.
“It motivates them and excites them, and keeps their minds off all the things going on,” she said.
On Wednesday evening, at the send-off dinner organized by Make-A-Wish, Lohan was greeted by clapping, balloons and a cake. The organization also gave him magazines for the trip, snacks and pens, among other gifts.
Lohan said when they told him he would go to the Super Bowl, he was ecstatic.
“I’m a huge football fan,” he said.
At the game Sunday, he said, he will root for the Carolina Panthers, but he also likes the Denver Broncos.
His father, Steve Lohan, was happy as well that the days of pain and fear are long gone. He remembers the day his son came home coughing and spitting up blood. They didn’t foresee then what was coming.
Lohan’s father still has photos on his cellphone of his son’s 18th birthday. That day, he said, his other son, Michael Lohan, had to shave the hair Ryan still hadn’t lost to the chemotherapy.
“That was his 18th birthday,” he said.
A surgery in December 2014 removed the cancer, but Lohan got an infection, and he had to undergo another operation a few weeks later.
“It was a scary time,” Steve Lohan said. “We thought we were going to lose him.”
Michael Lohan said his brother remained positive.
“He was a fighter,” he said. “He never quit.”
Steve Lohan said his son graduated from high school with a GPA above 5 and enrolled at the University of Florida, where he studies business administration.
The freshman said he has an optimistic character. He kept going to school through all the treatment, he said. His family and Estero High School, he said, were offered great support.
The illness, he said, has taught him to not take things for granted and to appreciate life.
“Everyday is a blessing,” he said.
His brother said the trip will be a nice reward.
“He deserves it,” he said. “He made it through this.”