After a fun-filled week in Florida that allowed him to feel like a boy again, 9-year-old British lad Alexander Goodwin has returned to Kansas City for the first of three surgeries planned as part of his bone cancer treatment program.
If tests Tuesday at Children’s Mercy Hospital show he’s healthy enough, Alex will have the first surgery Wednesday at the University of Kansas Hospital. Surgeons plan to remove his right femur and knee and replace them with prosthetic devices, said Jeff Goodwin, the boy’s father.
“It is a very complex and very risky procedure,” said Goodwin, a British police officer who brought his son to Kansas City in part because of KU’s expertise in treating Ewing’s sarcoma patients.
This first surgery will give doctors direct access to the tumor, which they will test to see whether the chemotherapy has killed the cancer cells. Though scans have looked favorable, access to the full tumor will help doctors learn more than they can through biopsies or scans, Goodwin said.
“That’s the only way to determine with 100 percent accuracy how effective chemotherapy has been,” he said.
Surgeons also will examine Alex’s pelvic area in preparation for reconstructive surgery, which could happen in about a month.
A third surgery, likely a year down the road, would happen after Alex is done with more cancer treatments, including radiation, so that his body will be stronger for the healing process. In the third procedure, surgeons would replace Alex’s prosthetic femur with a telescoping one that doctors can lengthen as Alex’s body grows. Alex would have to come back to Kansas City from England every three to six months to have the femur lengthened, his dad said.
When Alex’s father, a police officer in Warwickshire, began telling his son’s story through social media, multiple people in the United States recommended Children’s Mercy and KU, which have collaborated on the case. Last month, Children’s Mercy conducted scans, other tests and a round of chemotherapy.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation recently helped send the Goodwins to Walt Disney World and Sea World, where Alex finally put hospitals and needles out of his mind. He enjoyed Animal Kingdom the most, especially the ostrich and birds of prey. But meeting Chewbacca from “Star Wars” was nifty, too.
His dad tweeted videos daily from a week he called “amazing.”
In video after video, a smile consumed Alex’s face.
“Everyone has commented on how healthy and happy he looks,” Goodwin said. “This cancer has taken away a lot of his childhood, his innocence. It was nice to see Alex, the 9-year-old-boy, back again.…We have come back to Kansas feeling invigorated and prepared for the next couple weeks, which will be very difficult.”
Alex faces weeks of convalescence after surgery. Doctors want him up and moving as quickly as possible. Then he’ll need to balance recovery time with rehabilitation efforts.
His dad promises to keep Alex’s growing contingent of followers informed. On Twitter alone, Alex’s audience now exceeds 15,700, more than twice the number of followers he had when he arrived in the States. Supporters back home raised funds to get him here.
Locally, his supporters include Kansas City, Kan., Police Chief Terry Zeigler, who felt drawn to Alex through his upbeat messages on Twitter and helped arrange a large police escort for when Alex arrived at Kansas City International Airport in December. Since then, many others in U.S. law enforcement have rallied to the boy’s support.
Alex appreciates the positive thoughts and love sent his way.
“I hope that everyone cheers me up on Wednesday ’cause Wednesday is a big day,” he said.