By Stephanie Timblin
Alex Newark, an 11-year-old boy from Great Valley, is undergoing week number 5 of 29 weeks of chemotherapy treatments at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Diagnosed in August with Stage 2 Osteosarcoma of the leg, Alex is in the battle of his life. What started as mild pain has turned out to be an aggressive form of rare cancer in his left leg.
At first, Alex’s mom assumed her son’s complaints of leg pain were growing pains. After several weeks of complaints, his mom, Penny, a LPN with years of experience in the field, along with serving for 20 years as a volunteer EMT with the Great Valley Fire Department, and his dad, Josh, a paramedic for AllStar, decided it was best to check with his pediatrician, Dr. Pamela Salzmann, just to be sure. On a Monday, the family saw Dr. Salzmann. The very next day, they had an ultrasound. On Thursday, they had an MRI, and by Friday, they were at Roswell for a consultation. Their entire lives were forever changed in one short week.
Alex is an active young man who plays basketball, baseball, football, enjoys outdoor sports and ATV riding. Why wouldn’t she think he was just sore, or growing?
As it turns out, according to the American Cancer Society, each year, about 800 new cases of osteosarcoma are diagnosed in the United States. About 400 of these are in children and teens. Most osteosarcomas occur in children and young adults between the ages of 10 and 30. Teens are the most commonly affected age group, but osteosarcoma can occur in people of any age.
Alex can now be seen hopping alongside his brother Harrison and their teammates on the sidelines with the Ellicottville Eagles Little League football team. The team members wear a gold sock on their left legs in solidarity with Alex, as gold represents childhood cancer.
The chemotherapy treat-ments have taken their toll and Alex is tired and worn down. Alex and his family are working with his fifth grade teacher, Ms. Cole, to ensure he remains academically engaged. The future is uncertain for Alex; he will face a surgery in mid-November to replace his femur that has been destroyed by the cancer. Each day is a new challenge, but his family says that one thing is for sure: “Our community, friends, and family have helped us every inch of the way, and for that we are grateful.” In the future, Alex dreams of becoming an Alaskan State Trooper or maybe a farmer. He’s not sure!
A benefit will be held at the Great Valley Volunteer Fireman’s Clubhouse, located at 6035 Depot Street, in Great Valley on Nov. 13 beginning at 1 p.m. Items for basket raffle donations are still needed. Tickets are $20 for the event and can be purchased at Katy’s Café, Katy’s Fly-In, Villaggio, CCSE, The Pub, and The Clinton. If you are interested in following Alex’s progress, check out the #alex41strong page on Facebook.