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Two seriously ill boys, one indelible bond of friendship

January 11, 2011|By Mary Forgione, Tribune Health

Ryan Lamantia and Walter Wetzel were two very ill young boys -- one with brain cancer, the other with leukemia. One made it, one didn't. And that's where this story starts.

The boys met in a hospital during their respective treatments. This Chicago Tribune story tells what happened: "He inspired me to survive my cancer," Walter, now 17, in remission and quite the football player and snowboarder, says in the story. "Seeing him happy all the time made me happy. How could I be upset if he had it so much worse than me?"

For the last few years, Walter, who lives with his family in Elgin, Ill., wondered what had happened to his little buddy. "I finally had a friend I could relate with," Walter said. "I thought of him basically every day."

Some organizations run "support buddy" programs to match people living with cancer to someone in treatment for the same type of cancer. This web page from the American Society of Clinical Oncology provides resources.

But Ryan and Walter had become buddies on their own. Here's the full story about the boys -- and the one whose life remains forever changed by the friendship.

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