Andy was born on May 14, 1970 in Lockport, NY. When he was 2 years old Andy and his family moved to Baudette, Minnesota, where he grew up with his mother and father, Lei Lani and Robert Rickert, and his two older sisters, Kim and Kelly. In 1984, his family relocated to Athens, Pennsylvania, where Andy graduated from Athens High School in 1988. In 1999, Andy and I met, fell in love, and enjoyed life together for more than 16 years. Anyone who knew Andy, knew that his love and absolute pride for his beautiful daughter, Morgan, ran deep.
Andy remained an avid Minnesota sports fan throughout his life. He was an incredible baseball player for Athens Area High School, and later in life developed a passion for the game of golf. In 2012 he became a member of Tioga Golf Club formerly known as Tioga Country Club and in 2014 he became a board member.
Andy passed away on October 11, 2016, following many treatments for a brain tumor. Following his passing, Andy’s friends and family decided to honor his memory with an annual golf tournament to raise funds for a scholarship to be given annually to an Athens High School baseball and golf team member.
In July of 2014, at the age of 44, Andy reluctantly entered Robert Packer Hospital Emergency Room after having experienced several instances of confusion, memory loss, and dizziness. After a series of tests, Andy was admitted to ICU with a referral to neurosurgery. Andy’s sister, Kim, a neurosurgeon in Dallas, Texas, at the time, reached out to the neurosurgeon at Guthrie and began making her travel plans. His other sister, Kelly, who lived in Liverpool, NY, began making plans to be with him. Not much time passed before the hospital was filled with his family and friends who in all reality was family to Andy. Before we knew what was happening, Andy was scheduled for emergency surgery the following morning.
When I walked into Andy’s ICU room the following morning he was awake, drinking coffee, and laughing with a friend. This brought a smile and tears to my eyes. Andy was Andy again. At that moment, I thought everything was going to be okay.
After being discharged from the hospital Andy had an appointment with oncology to find out his biopsy results. He was diagnosed with Anaplastic Ependymoma (Grade III) which was a tumor common in children under the age of 5. Radiation was recommended with no chemo therapy. We were told that the tumor would eventually return but the timeframe was unknown. Andy completed 33 sessions of radiation and life seemed to return to normal (or as normal as they can after you go through brain surgery.)
In March 2015, I started to notice signs that the tumor had returned consistent with the symptoms noticed prior to his surgery in July of 2014. On March 18, 2015, Andy had a MRI scheduled and the results were heart breaking. His tumor had in fact, returned. After consulting with his family Andy decided he would go through another surgery which was scheduled April 6, 2015. Two days after his surgery an MRI was done to assess the success of surgery. They missed some of his tumor so another decision had to be made. After processing the news and shedding some tears with his family Andy decided to undergo a 3rd surgery. After having two surgeries in less than 3 days Andy was home within a couple days.
When he had his follow-up with oncology they recommended a second opinion through Sloan Kettering in New York City. On May 5, 2015, we met with Sloan Kettering where we were told that Andy had a High-Grade Astrocytoma otherwise known as Stage IV Glioblastoma. We were further informed that the pathology on his original tumor was reviewed and they now suspected that tumor was in fact an Astrocytoma. Once again, our world was turned upside down. Andy was faced with yet another decision. After consulting with family and his oncologist Andy committed to a clinical trial through Sloan Kettering which would require him to travel to New York City one day a week for 7 weeks then 1 day a week every other week. The clinical trial came with a multitude of side effects with one of them resulting in a hospitalization in July 2015 because his Kidneys were shutting down.
Andy resumed the trial following his hospitalization and on September 15th we made a trip to Sloan Kettering for a regularly scheduled MRI and treatment where we were told that his tumor had returned which meant the clinical trial was not working. So, he was faced with yet another decision: have surgery again or begin traditional treatment at home. After talking to his family and weighing his options Andy decided he was not having another surgery and would begin traditional treatment. Even though the results of his MRI were not as he had hoped he was somewhat relieved because he hated making the trips to New York City. The flight through Wings of Angels was comfortable however the commute in and out of the city was hard on him along with the long hours of waiting at Sloan Kettering. His treatment at Guthrie Clinic started October 5th, two days after we married.
Traditional treatment worked for several months and life started to seem normal again. In May 2016 Andy had a regularly scheduled MRI and we were told the tumor was starting to grow. This meant his current treatment was no longer working. His oncologist started another approved treatment while trying to obtain approval from our insurance for a non-FDA approved chemo therapy. His oncologist was confident this would be effective because of the genetic testing done his on his tumor. This approval process did not prove successful. After many appeals from his oncologist and from us, he was denied. Thankfully, his sister was able to assist with payment and Andy started a new treatment in July.
August 2016 Andy had a seizure while I was at work. This seizure affected him significantly. He then had another seizure at the end of September. Andy never really recovered from this seizure. His friends and family circled around him and celebrated his life with him until his passing on October 11, 2016.
Through all of this Andy was my strength. He remained positive about his diagnosis and about life. At no point was he angry at what he had been dealt in life. Andy always lived life to the fullest and had no regrets. He accepted you for you and never judged. He would be the first person to help you in time of need. He would give the shirt off his back if you needed it. Words cannot describe his warm heart, passion, and kindness. If you were fortunate enough to know Andy, then you were lucky.
Written by Renee Rickert, Andy’s wife