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Leo Paré - Red Deer Advocate

Leo Paré is the News and New Media Editor for the Red Deer Advocate. Contact him at lpare@reddeeradvocate.com

Follow Leo on Twitter — https://twitter.com/LeoPare'

Community shines during young boy’s battle with cancer

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Red Deer Advocate

A good friend of mine is currently watching his nine-year-old son battle cancer.

We play rec hockey together each week and during a game back in September, he mentioned his son hadn’t been feeling well. A few weeks later, the official diagnosis came in — it was Hodgkin lymphoma, a serious form of cancer originating from white blood cells.

This is how he described the situation in a recent email:

“The concerns started with a large lump on the side of his neck at the end of August 2012. No tests would confirm what it was. For a few weeks in November, he experienced joint aches that totally immobilized him. When he went to school, it was with the aid of a cane, or chair rides by his teachers to get around the hallways. These subsided in late November with the help of an anti-inflammatory. In December we had a biopsy done to his lymph nodes, when we were given the diagnosis.”

As a father of two boys of my own, I misted up a little when he talked about his son coming to his parents’ bedroom in the middle of the night, confused and frightened about what was happening to him.

Compelled to help out in some way, our rec team chipped in by bringing prepared meals to help lighten the load at home as the family coped with frequent trips to Calgary for chemotherapy treatments.

There is even ongoing talk of all of us shaving our heads to show our support.

Over the past few weeks, our friend has kept us up to date on his son’s progress and from what I can tell, it’s been mostly good news.

There have been tough times, of course. The boy took great pride in his flowing “hockey hair,” which he’s had to shave since the chemo began. He’s been unable to play minor hockey this winter and he’s unable to leave the house often due to a badly weakened immune system.

Last week, the boy spent four of seven nights in a hospital bed.

“It’s hard, because as the dad you need to be strong for him and for the rest of the family,” my friend said. “Not a day goes by that I don’t get choked up.”

Despite the trials and adversity they’ve faced over the past few months, my buddy has remained remarkably positive. He asked me recently if I’d consider writing something for the Advocate to share with the community the many “happy stories” that have occurred during his son’s battle with cancer.

“There are so many stories about bad things happening,” he said, also asking that I not mention anyone by name in my column. “I thought this would be a way to share something positive.”

My pal said his employer has gone above and beyond to accommodate the time required for trips to see doctors and on multiple occasions they’ve had anonymous gifts and flowers dropped on their door step.

When the kid’s minor hockey team decided to shave their heads in support, Tommy Gun’s did the haircuts for free.

The family is also thankful for the many friends and family members who have stepped up to help carry the load, preparing meals and driving the other children to their various commitments.

It never fails to amaze me how folks step up during times of crisis — especially where children are concerned. No doubt cancer is always a traumatic ordeal, but it can be especially heart-wrenching when a child is involved.

I hugged my boys a little tighter after hearing my pal’s story and seeing the pain and worry in his face, and I admire this family for staying courageous and positive in the face of every parent’s worst fear.

“He’s a trooper. He’s a fighter,” the dad says. “There have been so many ups and downs over the past month, but I feel like everything is going to be OK.”

NOTE: Although I have not shared this boy’s identity, I encourage you to leave a comment and share your well wishes with the family.

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Leo Paré is the Advocate’s online editor. Email him at lpare@reddeeradvocate.com or follow him on Twitter at @LeoPare

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