Marine mom makes brave choice for Olivia

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — One day, little Olivia Bourassa will hear all about how her life began, but for now her parents are just ecstatic that she’s here and healthy.

Her mother, Andrea Ryder, enlisted in the Marines in 2006, which was about the time she met Olivia’s father. Although, they had no idea their paths would cross years down the road.

“She worked at Dunkin’ Donuts,” said Dennis Bourassa, thinking back to his breaks from his job at a local Pepsi plant. “I got my coffee there.”

“He was the cute Pepsi guy,” Ryder said. “But I had a boyfriend.”

Ryder was deployed to Iraq in 2008, came home, and was then deployed to Afghanistan about seven months later. She drove trucks in both countries, coming close to danger on multiple occasions.saving olivia pkg 4

“There was an explosion right in front of my truck, and we got stuck in a fire fight,” she said.

When Ryder came home, she returned to her old job. And there was Bourassa, coming in for his coffee and in a bold move, a bagel.

“And I said I’m not just here for a bagel,” Bourassa recalled. “Would you like to go out sometime?”

They started dating, but the first bump in the road hit in 2012 when Ryder was diagnosed with melanoma. She was treated and given a positive prognosis for the deadly cancer, but last spring, about the time Olivia’s little face was peaking through the ultrasound – the cancer she thought she’d beaten came back.

The horrible news prompted an impossible choice: Receive treatment and lose the baby, or no treatment and take a chance on losing her own life. Despite a doctor’s prognosis that she had about six months to live without treatment, Ryder had little doubt what she would do.

“I never really thought about giving up the baby,” she said.

“Unselfishness, brave, courageous,” her now-fiancee Bourassa said. “And I think it’s something any mother wanting a baby would do. I told her I would support her decision no matter what.”

Olivia was born ten weeks early, weighing only about three pounds. She’s now five pounds, and could be home from the hospital by next week.

While her mom is working on the nursery, her dad is grinding wheat grass. It doesn’t taste very good, but it supplements the bag of medication Olivia’s mom has to take.

“We will try everything we can,” he said, referring to the wheat grass.

saving olivia pkgWith her little fists clenched and drawn in one recent picture, you can see that Olivia’s a fighter, and there’s little doubt about her mom, considering what she survived and is surviving.

“You know it’s momma?’ Ryder said to Olivia at the hospital, during a recent return for treatment for the melanoma.

“She’s the strongest person I know,” Bourassa said, fighting back tears.

Although they know there could be more bumps in the road to Ryder’s recovery, they also know how far they’ve come as a family.

“We just take it one day at a time,” said Bourassa. “But we know it’s going to be okay.”

The couple’s friends are helping them with their mounting medical bills by forming Operation Ryder Nation, and putting together a comedy show that is scheduled for November 23.

Below is an extended interview with Andrea Ryder

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