By Abigail Cukier
Two-year-old Liam Gibson has faced many obstacles in his short life, but he has met each one in the same way – with determination and a big smile.
It was no different after the upper Stoney Creek resident went through a six-hour surgery May 24 to remove four muscles from his lower leg.
When his parents went into the recovery room, they found him smiling and charming the nurses.
Liam was diagnosed with stage-four rhabdomyosarcoma in January 2011. A diagnosis only about 25 children in Canada receive every year.
After Liam and his twin sister Julianna learned to walk, Liam started crying often and walking less, he was constipated and wanted to be held flat on his back.
After two ER visits, a lump protruding from his right ankle sent the Gibsons back to the emergency room at McMaster Children’s Hospital.
After tests and a four-hour MRI, Ross and his wife Trish were told tumours encased the bottom half of Liam’s spine and more were in his arms and legs.
That night, surgeons removed the tumours but Liam was left paralyzed from the belly button down.
But with physiotherapy and his parents’ hard work, Liam progressed from moving his big toe to walking again by this spring.
Liam’s chemotherapy treatments were successful, but he is now on maintenance, low-dose chemo for one to two years. Physicians also thought it would be best to remove the muscles at the original site of the cancer.
Because a recurrence is likely to happen at the same site, they said this would hopefully prevent a relapse.
“This was hard to do,” said Liam’s dad Ross. “He has been doing well and walking more and more each day, hair growing and no tube in his nose.
“It really plays tricks with your mind, as you think he is just fine and the cancer is all gone. The cancer is gone, but we are trying to keep it from coming back and this surgery (combined with the maintenance chemo) will give him the best chance at long term survival.”
Liam was released from hospital following the surgery after four days – four days ahead of schedule – with a cast from his upper thigh to his toes.
“He just keeps going. He’s trying to walk, just dragging this big cast with him,” Ross told the Stoney Creek News last week. “I don’t know what he is thinking, but whatever it is, it’s not stopping him. He’s going to be a kid.”
Liam’s cast was removed Monday and he resumed chemotherapy.
Moments after the cast was removed, Ross wrote in an e-mail, “He is trying to walk on his own but they are trying to get him to use a walker as a precaution. I do not think that they will win that one. He is pretty determined.”
Laugh for Liam fundraiser June 22
The second Laugh for Liam fundraiser is taking place Friday, June 22, 6 p.m. at the Burlington Legion, 828 Legion Rd., Burlington. Funds raised will help with the financial stress of Liam’s illness.
The evening of comedy will star Shannon Laverty, Ian Sirota and Terry McGurrin .
Tickets, $50, include dinner, entertainment and a chance at prizes including two tickets from WestJet, a laptop, a television, golf club passes and more.
For information or tickets, visit www.fightforliam.com and click on Laugh for Liam 2 or contact Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org or (416) 804-2603.