Seven-year-old James loves hockey and has always been an active boy. Then in January 2021, he started complaining about pain in his leg. When it wasn’t going away, his mom Jacquie took him to the family doctor. When he was asked to hop on one foot, to everyone’s shock, he couldn’t.
The doctor ordered an X-Ray and the next thing James’ parents knew they were on their way to the Alberta Children’s Hospital. What was seen on the X-Ray was suspected to be cancer. An MRI, a CT scan and a bone scan revealed a large tumour in James’ left femur and an open biopsy revealed it was Osteosarcoma. Bone cancer.
Thankfully, his specialists had an innovative treatment plan. James would need chemotherapy and a Rotationplasty, a surgery to remove the cancerous femur, move up the tibia and rotate it so the foot and ankle can become the new knee joint.
“It was incredibly difficult to tell our son that he was going to lose part of his leg,” says Jacquie. “We told him he would no longer be in pain and after surgery he would get a new ‘robot leg’ that would enable him to be active and do everything he did prior to surgery.”
Prior to his surgery, James went through two cycles of chemotherapy over 10 weeks. During this time, he made special connections with his oncology nurses and Child Life specialist who helped him cope with his needle anxiety using a teddy bear that had a chemotherapy port, just like him. Surgeons successfully removed the cancerous bone and completed the Rotationplasty. James went through another four rounds of chemotherapy over 20 weeks, many of them at home through the donor-funded Hospital at Home program.
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James received his prosthetic leg last September, finished his treatment in mid-October, and was fully walking on his new leg by Halloween, just in time for trick-or-treating! Today he is cancer-free and back to enjoying some of his favourite activities. He has even tried sledge hockey at their local community arena.
The family will be out cheering on the Hockey Marathon for the Kids when they hit the ice March 31 to April 11 at the Chestermere Rec Centre.
“We are truly grateful for the incredible team of specialists at the Alberta Children’s Hospital who were by our side during this journey, and to people in our community who give to the hospital,” says Jacquie. “The fact these players are willing to put their lives on hold and play hockey for 12 days straight, all to support children and families like ours, means the world to us.”