On March 8, 1997,
We welcomed Alex into our lives. Though his birth was difficult - he sported a crescent moon-shaped scar on his cheek to prove it - he was anything but difficult himself. He was a sweet, caring child who took on a love of books and learning from a very young age. He felt things deeply and could laugh and cry with the best of them. At the same time he had a certain focus and understanding of himself on which he later drew deeply.
He started playing soccer and hockey when he was 6, but his particular love was hockey. His greatest gift on the field and on the rink was not pure athleticism, but rather his thoughtful approach to the game. He led by example, with hard work
In March 2007 at age 10, Alex began feeling a great deal of pain in his left thigh - something we thought was just a charley horse from a collision with a teammate during a hockey practice. Following a battery of tests - x-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds, bone scans and ultimately a biopsy, we were delivered the devastating blow. Alex had osteosarcoma - bone cancer, the same cancer as Terry Fox. Alex faced this news with a maturity and an understanding far beyond his years.
On April 4th, a port-a-catheter was surgically placed in his chest - a surgery which led him to dub himself "Captain iPod," a fine example of the positive attitude and joking spirit which he held throughout his treatments. At this time he also began an aggressive ten-month chemotherapy protocol. Despite the pain, nausea and lack of appetite, Alex always looked out for the well-being of others. He voiced more concern for other children in the hospital than for himself, and with each trip into Toronto, he expressed his sadness and worry for those he saw sleeping in the streets.
In October, Alex underwent an 11 hour surgery with 2 medical teams to address the primary tumour in his left femur, nodes on his left lung and his left rib. His femur was replaced with a metal rod, his knee was replaced and he sported a scar from mid shin to above his hip. This was immediately followed by a round of chemotherapy. In November, Alex underwent another surgery to address the metastases in the right ankle, right hip and and right lung immediately followed up by yet another round of chemotherapy.
Again, Alex faced these unbelievable challenges with grace and never once complained. He struggled through the pain of surgery and physiotherapy and amazed the health professionals with his progress and determination. Although he would never play hockey again, he had his sights set on new activities and worked towards these new goals without dwelling on his limitations.
That summer, Alex enjoyed time at the family cottage - his favourite place in the world. He read endless books, swam, played frisbee, built sandcastles and even went tubing with his brother and cousins.
Life was good.
However, on November 7, 2008 this all changed. We were faced with our darkest day as we learned that Alex had developed AML (a form of Leukemia) - a side effect of the drugs he had taken to battle the osteosarcoma. Now he was faced with 2 terminal illnesses. Despite our despair at the news, Alex’s spirit shone brightly as he carried us through this new fork in the road. He gave us strength to keep going and inspired us to do the things that needed to be done. On his own, but with our support, he made the decision that he would not pursue a curative approach and insisted that he be the one to tell his siblings Maddie and Ben. As he explained his decision to not seek treatment, this moment of darkness transformed into the most incredibly powerful, loving, life-affirming moment of our lives.
Alex passed away on February 12, 2009, weeks shy of his 12th birthday. In his short life, he taught us much about love and support, courage, determination, and connection. He was simple yet magnificent; he left us in awe.
Alex brought many together and continues to do so, connecting us along this journey. Through those who extended their hands to help, we have gained an appreciation of the generosity of friends and strangers alike. Just as Alex led us to see beyond his own life, we are surrounded by a community of friends and family wanting to give back. We have forged new friendships and strengthened old ones in an effort to live out what Alex so clearly understood: that to love and sustain each other is our greatest gift.