Ricardo “Ricky” Padilla is like most other third graders at Selman Elementary School.
He loves to play baseball, likes superheroes, and enjoys playing video games.
On Sunday he celebrated his first communion at Immaculate Conception Church and on May 25 will celebrate his ninth birthday. Not bad for someone given only a 5 percent chance to live three years ago after being diagnosed with a rare, stage IV cancer on his brain stem.
“Only God, it’s only God,” said his mother, Belen Padilla.
A devout Catholic, Belen has no doubts that God healed her son. She calls it a miracle and a blessing.
In February 2016, Belen was able to take Ricky to Mexico where he was blessed twice by Pope Frances – once on the streets of Mexico City on Saturday, Feb. 13, and a second time at Hospital Infantil de México Federico Gómez on Sunday, Feb. 14, where he went to receive treatment.
Doctors at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center diagnosed Ricky when he was 5 years old with the cancer, and he underwent radiation and chemotherapy. Although he still needs more time to pass before he is declared in remission, he has already defied the odds and lives a normal life.
“A lot of people have come together to pray for Ricky,” Belen said.
Ricky is her youngest child and only son. Ricky has two older sisters, Jeny and Jazmin, and his father, Javier. They live in a modest home in Sealy behind City Hall.
“I am happy! We are healthy, we have life, we have everything,” Belen said.
Ricky said he enjoys playing with his sisters and his cats or going outside to play with his dad.
“Sometimes I watch TV and play with my video games,” he said.
His favorite subject in school is science.
“I like the planets and I like the ecosystems,” he said.
Ricky has been an inspiration to his family and many in the community.
“I think he has taught us all a lot of things,” his sister Jeny said. “You may think you’re going through a hard time but there’s always someone else going through something worse.”
Jeny works at Walgreens and said she still gets people asking how Ricky is doing.
“A lot of people know of his story,” she said.
She said she hopes Ricky’s story will inspire others.
“They might be going through something, too … Some people need to see stuff like this because for some people it might give them hope,” she said.
While Ricky was in the hospital, the family benefited from a free place to stay at the Ronald McDonald House. The family recently had a chance to repay that generosity by hosting a meal for families there.
“We did host a dinner and it felt great,” Jeny said.
She said her mother is determined to host more meals in the future.
“She wants to keep doing that service,” Jeny said. “We are blessed and healthy and in a much better place and she wants to give back.”
“God, I no need nothing, my family is healthy!” Belen said, smiling and holding her hands up in praise. “I always pray, pray, pray and God always listens!”