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Family powers through a tough time

The Fleming family is powering through a tough time as son Ethan (front) battles a rare bone cancer. From top left, dad Walter, sister Rebecca, and mom Tanna are all by his side. - Supplied
The Fleming family is powering through a tough time as son Ethan (front) battles a rare bone cancer. From top left, dad Walter, sister Rebecca, and mom Tanna are all by his side.
— image credit: Supplied

In the last three weeks, one Rosedale family's world has turned inside out. On June 20, mom Tanna Fleming took her seven-year-old son Ethan to the doctor for an X-ray of Ethan's pained knee. The diagnosis returned that night: osteogenetic sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that Terry Fox also had. The disease is especially rare among children, usually hitting teenagers.

Tanna and Ethan have camped out near the B.C. Children's Hospital in Vancouver ever since, surviving a battery of back-to-back tests and treatments. Ethan has already had 52 hours of chemotherapy as part of the first attempt to remove the baseball-sized tumour from his leg. He has blood work every three days, and may need a blood transfusion depending on his platelet count and other indicators.

"We've never had to deal with anything like this before. It's all new to us. What the little guy has actually had to go through is just amazing," said Tanna, who has had to take leave from her position in bakery sales at the Real Canadian Superstore in Chilliwack. Her husband, Walter, is driving back and forth between the hospital in Vancouver and his job as a milk tank operator for Vedder Transport in Abbotsford.

Ethan has about 30 weeks of chemo to go, including a surgery in August. He'll need months after the treatment before he recovers.

"He's doing good. He's in really good spirits," she said. "He's such a cute, caring little kid. It's just so sad that this is happening. But he's strong, we're going through it."

The family has launched an online fundraising campaign to help with making ends meet during this next year, and the community has rallied around them. The Flemings are at $3,090 of their $20,000 goal. Their Facebook page Ethan's World already has 1,145 'likes.' Ethan's school, Rosedale Traditional, is hosting fundraisers and has donated food gift cards. Ethan's 11 year-old sister Rebecca is fundraising to donate her hair for people fighting cancer.

"It's nice to see that we're one huge family," said Tanna of the community support. She can't wait to get back to Chilliwack to give everyone big hugs.

With Ethan in and out of the hospital, Tanna and he are staying at Easter Seals House in Vancouver, an independent low-cost residence for patients run by the B.C. Lions Society for Children with Disabilities. They'll be moving to Ronald McDonald House, another residence for families of patients in B.C. Children's Hospital, as soon as a room opens up. They won't return to Chilliwack until late July.

"We're literally like little gypsies here in Vancouver," said Tanna.

Tanna herself is focussing on what needs to be done and powering through this tough time.

"I'm a drill sergeant right now because I want to make sure everything is done," said Tanna. "I have to be strong for me, but especially strong for my son, because he needs to see that mom is here for him."

Ethan's next 52-hour round of chemo starts Friday, bringing him one step closer to recovery. The family's fundraising campaign is at: http://www.ethansworld.ca/ and at www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/ethan-s-world/69431.

akonevski@theprogress.com
twitter.com/alinakonevski
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