Nine-year-old Alexander Goodwin, a nature lover from England, considers the bone cancer inside him a parasite. He’s the unwilling host who can’t shake the organism by himself.
After finishing chemotherapy this week at Children’s Mercy Hospital, he’ll head to the University of Kansas Hospital on Thursday to learn how doctors, and perhaps surgeons, here in America plan to attack it.
“We are in their hands, really,” Alex’s father, Jeff Goodwin, said Tuesday as he sat beside his son in a Children’s Mercy patient play room. “We just want Alex to get better.”
So do thousands of people around the world who’ve become Alex’s supporters on Facebook, Twitter and the crowd-funding site Just Giving. His supporters, especially those in the United Kingdom, raised tens of thousands of dollars for him to make this journey. They even cut a music video featuring singing and dancing constables, mounted officers, K-9s and motorcycle police from across his nation — and the United States. About 10 officers from the Kansas City, Kan., East Patrol station make a short appearance.
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Alex’s dad, who considers himself a private person, did not embrace social media until after Alex grew ill. Then Goodwin began began filming short video updates of his son and posting them online under “Alexander’s Journey.” Alex suggested some of the content. He charmed viewers by showing concern for others instead of focusing on himself. Word and admiration quickly spread, especially in the worldwide police fraternity.
Goodwin serves on a tactical firearms unit in Warwickshire. That makes him one of the few British constables who carry a gun in a country that experiences only 600 murders a year.
His career choice means he normally concentrates on helping others.
“It was difficult for me to ask for help,” he said.
And at first, help eluded them.
About this time last year, at Christmas, Alex noticed pain in his right hip and upper leg. It grew more and more severe. Unable to turn over in bed on his own at night because of the pain, he asked his father to move him around when necessary. During the days, his father had to carry him places. Eventually, Alex needed pain medication every two hours.
“It was so painful, I couldn’t even walk,” said Alex, who lives in the village of Dunton Bassett, near the border of Warwickshire and Leicestershire. “I was dragging this leg around. I couldn’t move at all.”
For months, doctors blamed “growing pains.”
Alex’s mother, Maria, knew better. She kept insisting on blood tests. In June, the family learned that Alex had Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone cancer. Chemotherapy treatments began.
Determined to give Alex the best chance for survival, his parents searched out advice in Europe and the United States. Multiple people kept telling them about Children’s Mercy and KU, said Goodwin. That gave them confidence to fly here last week. Police officers from across the region greeted them at Kansas City International Airport in what Alex calls “an absolutely outstanding” show of support.
Since then, Children’s Mercy staff have put Alex through a PET scan and MRI. His chemotherapy treatments in Kansas City mark his 12th cycle of chemo overall.
The Goodwins expect to leave Children’s Mercy on Wednesday morning and meet Thursday with KU staff who specialize in Ewing’s sarcoma.
According to his father, two options at the moment appear to be radiation or an unusual type of surgery. That operation would involve replacing Alex’s hip and upper femur with a device that would include a rod that would lengthen as Alex’s leg grows. KU is one of the few hospitals performing the surgery in the United States.
“We are just waiting to find our best course of action,” said Goodwin, who keeps Alex’s 7,000 Twitter followers informed of daily developments. “He’s got a massive battle ahead.”
Meanwhile, Alex and his family marvel that folks here don’t wear cowboy hats, as they had expected.
They look forward to tasting Kansas City barbecue and learning more about the area, including what birds of prey we have. Alex loves birds of prey.
And they’re extremely thankful for all the American kindness they’ve received.
The doctors and nurses have been amazing, they say. So have all the police officers and highway patrol troopers who have visited Alex. One even brought “the real” Father Christmas along. When the bearded gentleman asked Alex what he wanted for Christmas, Alex’s parents expected their oldest child to name a certain video game.
Instead, he said he wanted everyone to be happy.
And for no one else to have the cancer he has.
The adults in the room gasped.
“You could hear Father Christmas’ voice crack,” Goodwin said.
Alex has displayed that upbeat attitude his entire life, his father said.
“He wants the best for everyone else when he is so frail himself,” Goodwin said. “He goes through periods of time when he is in pain and discomfort and feeling ill and nauseous, and his first thoughts, really, are for other people. That’s an amazing quality.”
Asked Tuesday what message he’d like to give all the Americans now following him on Twitter, Alex held true to that character.
“I just want everyone to be happy, keep those positive thoughts up and have a nice day,” he said. “Don’t worry, all those people. Whoever loves me and everyone else, I’ll always be in your heart. “
Donna McGuire: 816-234-4393, @dmcguirekcstar
On the web:
A police colleague of Jeff Goodwin’s wrote the music video “Horizon on my mind” to help raise funds for Alex. A song about his journey, it costs 99 cents online at Amazon and the iTunes store; 70 cents of each purchase going to Alex and 5 cents to emergency services charities.
Alex can be followed on Twitter at @alexs_journey
To find his Facebook page, search for Alexander’s Journey.
His Just Giving site is at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/jeffrey-goodwin