At a young age of 5, Alex began playing soccer. He had the energy to run from one side of the field back to the next side of the field. He was not one the coach sat on the sideline to rest. He’d take a quick water break, wave at mom, and go back to the game every time. He played soccer for three years without complaint of being doubled played. However, his extreme love for football made him decide soccer just wasn’t as fun to him as football had become.
With the season changing, the sport changed; following soccer came baseball season. Alex had an amazing coach that noticed right away that Alex had the ability to play only certain positions for his team. Alex played first base, short stop, and pitcher through his years in baseball. His favorite being short stop where you are constantly moving from one area of the inner field to another area, covering third base, second base, and the pitcher. Alex enjoyed playing baseball for seven years for his favorite and appreciated coach.
As a small third grader, Alex began playing football on the 49ers team for Marion City. Again, his coach recognized Alex didn’t need to be placed on offense or defense, but played the entire game. He had the ability to learn the plays, learn the moves, which led him to make the right moves to score or tackle when needed. When Alex started seventh grade at River Valley Middle School, he began playing for his school. Alex was one of the smallest boys on the team. However, being short or being little it never stopped him. He pushed harder and harder each day to show the coaches he had what was needed to play on this team. He never gave up, never gave in, just pushed himself every moment he could. He maintained an A/ B average every year playing sports, never taking for granted his education. He had decided he wanted to continue after his high school years playing football for a college and so on as long as he made their teams. The idea of going further by learning agriculture mechanics or studying Automotive Technicians duties crossed his mind for a career. However, after his eighth grade football season came to an end, unfortunately so did any idea of Alex continuing the use of his legs to hold his body weight.
In February 2013, at the age of 13, Alex was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in his right leg. After nearly nine months of chemotherapy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus Ohio and bone salvage leg surgery at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland Ohio, he was deemed “cancer free.” Unfortunately, the joy of having beat cancer and the thought of making up for lost time was short lived. Scan results taken in March 2014 indicated that the cancer had returned to new areas including his left leg, his hip, and his spine. Nearly a year later and approaching his sixteenth birthday, Alex continues to receive treatment at the Cleveland Clinic in his fight to overcome cancer.
He has been asked to carry a heavy emotional load and it has aged him. He wants desperately to care about what 16-year olds are interested in, but that luxury has been stolen. The ravages of this battle have left scars on all of us, including all of his siblings, his grandparents, his aunts and uncles, and all those that love him.
Fear and anxiety are constant companions. We have chosen to invest in the childhood cancer community because we feel called to fight, but it hasn’t been without a cost. Looking at old pictures of Alex proves to be difficult at times. The pictures prior to being diagnosed make my heart ache knowing following those smile and joys of what the future was to hold for him comes the photos during treatment that dredge up all of the emotions once again that were felt. Alex has spent numerous days, evenings, weekends in the hospital. He has had numerous surgeries; two bone salvage surgeries, two skin grafts done to these areas, one hip replacement, his port placed twice (removed once), and many more small yet critical surgeries to maintain his battle of this beast. He has not been able to attend school the entire time due to his leg surgeries. He misses his friends, his extended family, and his life as he once knew it.
Over the last two years, each day has produced its share of highs and lows. Making weekly and sometimes daily trips to Cleveland to meet with our doctors and nurses that care for Alex. The anxiety, uncertainty and tension that build prior to each visit, or each phone call, or each ache and pain he has. It changes your life. Over these last couple of years we have seen an adolescent boy become a man almost instantly. It’s difficult to watch someone you love struggle with the options seeming limited and you have no control over the outcome.
Although many days that seemed to turn into nights then early mornings without blinking an eye over the last two years have been extremely difficult and painful, there is also tremendous good in each day. Our family is different in many ways and this blessing could not have come without the walk through the valley of darkness. Our joy is so much bigger. A typical day feels like an amazing gift because we lived through so many that were anything but normal. We love being together as a family, after so much time being separated. Our purpose for living and for making the time we are given count has been renewed and clarified. We love more completely and with more empathy and tenderness. We understand that to someone in pain, using arms for hugging, hand for helping, and our feet to meet their needs is much more helpful than throwing out Biblical platitudes. We have gotten to know some amazing cancer families, doctors, and nurses, people who will forever be a part of our lives. We appreciate life on a different level. And one of the most amazing results is that our faith has been tested, and it withstood the fire. It is real and there is tremendous peace that comes from this.
Today, although Alex is still receiving treatment almost weekly at the Cleveland Clinic without an end in sight, his views and ideas for his future are still on the top of his mind. Laying or sitting is almost all he is allowed or even capable of doing for the last two years. He watches YouTube, gaming videos, and many more things found on the web. He plays computer games, PlayStation games, and anything that keeps his mind focusing and pushing forward. He plans to finish high school and pursue a career in computer science. My heart rejoices in such a brave and courageous young man that even though he is battling this disease, he still pushes forward with what he wants his future to hold.
If you would like to send Alex some words of encouragement and support or get the latest update on his treatment, please visit Alex’s CaringBridge page at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/alexcooper.
Thank you for your support in Alex’s journey!
If you or a loved one has been impacted by sarcoma cancer, we encourage you to share your story. Sharing your story can be such an inspiration to others who are dealing with sarcoma in their own life and remind us all of the urgency to find better treatments in order to make an impact on the devastation that sarcoma cancer brings. Let your experiences help others become involved with raising awareness!