Bingham Senior Diagnosed with Cancer

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Photo by Photo courtesy of Riley Culley

Riley Culley after undergoing surgery.

Nic Nielsen, Editor-in-Chief

Senior Riley Culley had his future planned out for himself. After helping lead Bingham High School’s football team to a 14-0 undefeated season and state championship, he looked forward to graduating, serving an LDS mission for two years, and attending Dixie State University with a football scholarship. These plans were interrupted, however, when Riley was diagnosed with bone cancer.

It all started when starting varsity center Riley Culley felt a pain in his side back in August.

“I went to the doctor with some pain in my side and I had it for a while,” said Riley. “He just said, ‘Oh, it’s nothing to worry about.’ They thought it was kidney stones at first, but then they said they’re not really worried about kidney stones right now. For the last eight months I’ve had this pain in my side and then three months ago I noticed a lump on my left. I figured that it was a crooked ribcage and my mom just said not to worry about it, but then I had a lot of pain right there, so we went to the doctors.”

According to Riley, the doctor assumed he had kidney stones, but when he took a urine test they found blood in the sample. He then took an ultrasound and they doctors were unable to find any kidney stones. Riley decided to visit another doctor who then took a CT scan.

The doctor told them not to worry, but Jackie Culley, Riley’s mother, insisted the doctor continue to search for signs of any problems. After scanning the left side of Riley’s ribcage they found the tumor. However, Riley didn’t know he had cancer, or even a tumor, at the time.

“They just kept calling it a mass on the bottom of my rib, but no one said it was a tumor, so I was never worried about it,” said Riley.

Once Riley was informed of the tumor in his bottom rib, he tried his hardest to remain positive while waiting to find out how dangerous his condition is.

“People just kept coming in asking me to do studies,” said Riley. “They wanted to study what kind of cancer I had and I was like, ‘I don’t have cancer yet. You don’t know that.’”

After an MRI, another CT scan, and more testing, Riley had a biopsy where his doctor cut into the tumor. Before the surgery the doctor told Riley that if the tumor looked cancerous, they would put a port in his chest. That was the first thing Riley checked for when he woke up.

“I just remember waking up and slapping my chest… and that’s how I knew [I had cancer],” explained Riley.

Undergoing chemotherapy for the Ewing’s sarcoma, or bone cancer, will make a large impact on Riley’s future. Not only can it affect his physical abilities, such as simple activities like walking, but he won’t be able to play football, attend college, or serve an LDS mission for at least a year and a half.

“I was planning on going on a mission, but now even so after a year of chemo, then it is six more months of waiting,” said Riley. “It’s the church’s policy to wait six months after you have cancer. I’m kind of in a wedge of what to do. It’s already a year and a half before I can go to school or on a mission, so we’ll see what happens. [Playing football in college] is not for sure, but I tell myself I can.” Riley remains optimistic about his situation and prefers that other do as well.

“I never really put my head down and thought, ‘Oh, what are we going to do?’” said Riley. “It’s just like the next step, how we’re going to move forward. I’ve stayed positive through it all. I’ve felt a lot of support and a lot of help through the community, through friends and family. I’m not too worried about it. I just know it will be a hard year and it will be tough going through all the treatments, but I’m not worried about the outcome. There are people that come up and are positive. That helps, but the people who are negative and are like ‘Oh, this sucks so bad. Why would God do this to you?’ That doesn’t help.”

While Riley works to remain strong through his treatment, Bingham’s football team has been working to help his family out financially. As soon as Head Coach Dave Peck found out about Riley’s condition, he held a meeting with Riley’s teammates to discuss what they could do to help. According to senior Noa Taeatafa, all the players jumped on board with the idea of a clothing drive without hesitation. The clothing drive will be held Saturday, May 10 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the boys lacrosse team will be holding a charity game at Bingham on Thursday, May 1 at 7 p.m. to help benefit the Culley family. Many students are currently working to help.

”Riley’s one of my good friends and it was just crazy to see for a 17 year old to get cancer,” said Noa Taeatafa. “It sucks that it happened to Riley, but you know what? I think he’s going to get through this with all the support he has from his family and all of us. I think it will be good. We knew that’s one of our brothers and we want to take care of him.”

A 5K race has been planned for May 31 to raise funds for the Culleys. According to Peck, schools such as Manti and Brighton High School are also working to help Riley. An account has also been set up at Chase Bank for donations in Riley’s name. Culley hasn’t just recieved financial support, however.

Seniors Noa Taeatafa, Kyle Ormond, Dallon Smith, Jake Funes, and Andy Ward shaved their heads on April 22 to support their friend through chemotherapy. Riley doesn’t just have the support of Bingham High School, but also the community around him.