The Life of Riley


In the early 1990s Jeremy and I lived in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia. We were newlyweds and two of our closest friends were as well. Terry and Christine had their first child–a boy named Riley–during those years.  We were witnesses to their impressive journey into parenthood.

We have since moved to Minneapolis and they settled in Calgary. We haven’t seen each other in person for many years, but since Riley was just a few years older than our firstborn son, Jesse, we always felt a kinship with them and watch their lives with interest from afar.

Riley grew to be a buoyant and caring son, as well as an athletic teen. He loved climbing mountains and camping and challenging himself physically, just like his father.

From Terry and Christine’s blog, Lyme Be Gone:

“In October 2009, [Riley] came down with what looked like a nasty case of the flu. However, days, weeks and then months passed, and he continued to get worse, not better. He has been plagued with a constellation of alarming and varied symptoms that continue to grow more severe and are now completely disabling for him.

As we travelled from doctor to doctor, carrying around a detailed list of Riley’s symptoms (42 of them), we did not realize, nor did any of the doctors (19 of them) that this list was actually writing the story of the progression of Lyme disease. To make a long story…”shorter”, in July 2010, Riley was diagnosed with Lyme disease, as well as 2 co-infections (also from a tick bite).

little tick big problem

Although we are very grateful to finally know what we are dealing with, Riley is facing a treatment regime that is lengthy, very aggressive and unfortunately unavailable within the Canadian medical system.

The diagnosis of Lyme disease is a controversial and much debated topic in medical circles.  Because of this controversy–recognition, adequate testing and treatment of Lyme disease in Canada is virtually non-existent.”

To read more details about his symptoms, follow this link.

Most of us are aware that the expression “Life of Riley” typically suggests an ideal, contented life, possibly living on someone else’s money, time or work. Rather than a negative freeloading or golddigging aspect, it implies that someone is kept or advantaged. The expression was popular in the 1880s.

Obviously, this is not Riley Lindberg’s life.

Here is an excerpt from Terry’s most recent post, A Day in the Life of Riley. Jeremy and I read it together while sipping coffee on our deck over the weekend. Talk about a living sermon that goes straight to your heart on a Sunday morning! Tears came easily and since then, I have been carrying Riley, Terry and Christine around in my heart, praying silently for them and wishing I could do more.

For over two years [Riley] has endured unspeakable pain and suffering, and been imprisoned in bed, yet he remains as hopeful as ever and resolute in the belief that his health will be restored and he will one day re-enter the world. On the 28th of October, Riley turned 18.  Although I had long anticipated this milestone, I was not prepared for the ensuing sadness.  It was as though someone had peeled off my skin and left me bracing against a bitter wind; watching helplessly as chronic illness stripped away Riley’s party… cake toppled, friends scattered, beer spilled, cars overturned, girlfriends departed, university crumbled, and robust health cart-wheeled into oblivion.  How do you celebrate your son’s transition to adulthood when he lies there like an emaciated and unstrung marionette, unable to walk, eat, or shower, without assistance…or when he mentions that he’s surveyed his entire body, unable to locate one area free of pain!

Just eighteen and already Riley is a veteran of bitter winds.  Not one to dwell on his losses, however, Riley has sought shelter in the love and generosity of others, deepened his spiritual roots, and learned to rejoice in life’s simple pleasures.  At times I imagine he is enrolled in the College of The Saints.  He continually reminds us that although he suffers, he is better this year than he was at the same time a year ago.  On his last birthday he could not listen to audio-books, watch soccer and golf, or engage in short conversations.

Had you sat with us by his bedside, on the eve of his birthday, you would have witnessed part of an ongoing miracle.  Gratitude shone from Riley’s eyes and a radiant smile met us as we bestowed simple gifts upon him and read birthday cards from loved ones.  His eyes widened as we shared with him the abundance of Blog Reader Book Picks from so many of you. We took turns reading to him the extensive list of favorite books and the colorful descriptions people had given for making their selections. Riley was absolutely delighted to know that people were thinking of him and that he could now download and treasure audio-books that had inspired others! Now with each book he listens to, he pictures the person who endorsed it and imagines them enjoying it with him.

Riley, with his wisdom, courage, and faith, continues to teach me that suffering and joy are both necessary partners in this gift called life.  I cannot begin to imagine the spiritual transformation he is undergoing through his devastating illness.  Riley is a masterpiece in progress and I am a humble witness. 

Thank you for taking the time to read Riley’s story as he battles this hideous disease. Your thoughts, prayers and support mean so much to all of us and give Riley the hope and drive to keep fighting.  He is very much looking forward to the day when he can return to school, play a round of golf and get back to life as a healthy, thriving teenager.

People frequently ask us to let them know what we need…a generous but difficult question to answer.  We need you to walk patiently beside us, to hold on to the morsels of hope when we drop them, to pray for us, to share your own lives with us, to not give up on Riley as he battles this illness, to pull us out when we withdraw from the world, and to continue sending reading suggestions to Riley that will enhance his recovery!
With much gratitude,  Terry”
Riley mountain climbing in 2007

Riley mountain climbing in 2007

If Riley’s story has touched your heart, there are some things we can all do to show our support and love.

1. Pray for Riley’s complete healing and for strength for his parents and brother.

2. Leave an encouraging message on the Lyme Be Gone blog.

3. Contact your local political officials to let them know how important it is to support diagnosis, treatment and research for sufferers of Lyme Disease.

4. Recommend a favorite audiobook to Riley through commenting on the blog.

5. Contribute to the RILEY LINDBERG SUPPORT FUND (more details at link.)

Thanks for helping me carry this family’s burden in some small way.


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8 Responses to The Life of Riley

  1. christine lindberg June 12, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

    Dearest Rachel…caught off guard by my tears this morning…not sure why as they come so easily these days as I care for Riley day in and day out. Your blog post means so much to us and your caring from afar is so touching. Wish we could join you on your deck for Sunday morning coffee and a really good visit…years overdue. Love from the Lindbergs

    • Rachel Greenhouse June 12, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

      Love you Christine!

    • Terry Lindberg June 12, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

      Dear, but unfortunately not near Rachel and Jeremy,
      I read your post with tears streaming on to my desk (it needed a clean anyway)…I can’t tell you what a gift it was to remember our friendship with you and to hear your warm and compassionate words…I felt lifted up by you and somehow more able to keep Hope from blowing out. Thanks for just being you! One day we’ll have a reunion.

      Love Terry

      • Rachel Greenhouse June 12, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

        Terry, if we had the means, we would be on the first plane to Calgary right now. So glad to have reconnected if even through such difficult circumstances. My heart tells me that Riley will amaze and out-achieve all of our even most extravagant hopes and dreams for him. I am happy to spread his story far and wide. xo

  2. Jen Vertanen at TWHL (@jenvertanen) June 12, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    Big fat tears…no words…just tears. My prayers are with Riley and his family.

  3. Pam June 12, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    I don’t know you, but my heart knows you. I will pray with all my heart and soul that you all will live the life of Riley again soon.

  4. Brenda King June 12, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

    I hope you get better soon so you can live life the way you are supposed to.

  5. Lee Ann June 12, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

    There is a really good documentary about the “controversy” of Lyme’s Disease. If anyone wants to understand the horrors of this infection watch “Under Our Skin” (2008). I am very sad to hear that Riley has had to suffer with this terrible illness. How can anyone question it’s devastation?

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