CaST rallies support for junior on medical leave

Max Ritvo ’09 plans to return to school as a senior next year, as he keeps up with his studies while undergoing cancer treatment in New York City. 
In mid-October, Ritvo was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that most commonly affects preteen and teenage boys.
He was flown by air ambulance on Oct. 16 to New York City where he is currently receiving care at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. 
In Ritvo’s case, the cancer is 97 percent treatable, he said. 
Ritvo and his parents will live at their residence in Manhattan during the next seven months while he undergoes chemotherapy.
Between treatments, Ritvo finds solace in his studies, determined to do “as much work as I can do” while away from school, he said.
The school helped Ritvo get the necessary books and syllabus from Laurel Springs School, where he submits his schoolwork. 
“The administration has been wonderful and so helpful,” he said. “They are making sure I’m going to be ready to come back to school.”
Ritvo also has a tutor to help him with his studies, often for four hours a day.
A participant in school drama with a deep passion for literature and philosophy, Ritvo recently received a video of a BBC series adapted from the book “I, Claudius” from a school friend in a care package.
He said he likes to spend his free time reading and learning beyond school requirements.
“I enjoy the intellectual stimulation,” Ritvo said. “It takes my mind off things.”
Ritvo has received many other care packages and letters from individuals, while the Upper School Crisis and Support Team sent a giant card that was available in the library for students to sign.
They will also send DVDs, CDs and any other items friends would like to give to Ritvo.
“The community has been very loving,” Ritvo said. “There are some people I was friendly with who have just been so diligent in making me feel loved.  That’s the Harvard-Westlake community right there.”
Eli Moghavem ’10, who is heading the CaST project, felt that though he does not personally know Ritvo, he wanted to generate a community response.
“I think that it is really important to send him the card along with the care packages to keep his hopes up and to keep him happy,” Moghavem said.
Students started a Facebook group titled “I Love Max Ritvo” in mid-October dedicated to leaving messages for Ritvo. 
His mother, Ariella Ritvo, has begun posting regular updates about Max and his condition on the forum.
Students can also leave messages for Max by joining the group, which he checks regularly.  They must create an account through Facebook.com to gain access to the group.
Max hopes that students realize from his situation that illness “can happen to anyone,” and that his battle will be a long-term one, though he said he has no reason to believe so far that the support will wane. 
He is  already impressed by the ever-expanding Facebook group and mail pouring in to his New York home.
“I want everybody to understand this is not something controllable,” Ritvo said. “It’s very hard to empathize. This is a constant source of not feeling well. But you need support.”

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