For Tim Hodgkinson, the pain of watching his young son endure the nightmare of chemotherapy a second time is only compounded by a sense of helplessness.
“He’s just nine years old, he’s scared like we all would be, but he’s nine and it’s just heartbreaking. There’s so little you can do as a parent,” said Hodgkinson in a telephone interview from Vancouver where he is with his son Wills for treatment. “You cuddle them, hold them, stroke their hair, tell them that you love them, you can’t do any more than that.
“You so wish it was you, you so wish that they didn’t have to go through what you know they have to go through.”
This week Wills is just coming off his first of two, five-day cycles of chemo at B.C. Children’s Hospital to fight the second of two tumours that were discovered on his lungs just before Christmas, sadly the same time of his one-year anniversary of clear checkups.
“Wills was just getting back into his life, catching up with school, sports, all of it, so when we got the news it was a shock to everybody, nobody saw it coming, least of all William,” said Hodgkinson.
|Nine-year-old Wills Hodgkinson of Penticton is back in hospital for another round of chemotherapy therapy treatment after new tumours were discovered on his lungs just before Christmas. (Contributed)
In Feb. 2018, Wills was diagnosed with a Wilm’s tumour, a rare kidney cancer that primarily affects children which required chemo and surgery and up until last month things were going well.
“The second time is much scarier, the first time you’re very much a deer in the headlights, you’re just numb with shock but with any relapse, this time you know what’s coming,” said Hodgkinson. “Now you’ve got this situation where he understands the depth of what he’s in, and also the experience of what happened previously; he knows what’s coming, the horror show of what chemotherapy is.”
Wills has also asked his dad the question that for Hodgkinson is the hardest to answer and one he doesn’t want to repeat.
“It’s very difficult, but I tell him we’re going to fight it and yes, we have an uphill struggle, but we’re going to fight it, it’s going to be tough but we’re in it together,” he said. “You have to offer some hope, you have to be realistic of course, I tell him we’re going to push through we’re going to give it our best shot and just take one day at a time.”
Once again they are staying across the street from the hospital at Ronald McDonald House and right now the days, during recovery from chemo, are spent quietly in bed, in the dark, watching a little television.
On Thursday doctors were scheduled to harvest some stem cells from Wills which will be re-administered to help him fight infection necessary after the chemo treatment and according to dad: “necessary to keep him alive, that’s the bottom line.”
For Hodgkinson, his time alone can be the most difficult.
|Wills Hodgkinson and his dad Tim during one of their happier moments. (Contributed)|
“Away from Wills, well, it’s just crushing, it’s heartbreaking and you have to feel these emotions,” he said. “I find myself this time being far more reflective, the good life we’ve had together, father and son, I find myself looking into the past, thinking about all the good times and reliving the photographs of Wills playing football with the Pinnacles on the first day of kindergarten, the vacations.
“We’ve been here before but the nature of the situation is very different, in a sense it’s new again and you’re still terrified.”
The one positive aspect is the support they have received from the Penticton community.
“It was massive last time as it is this time, the messages of support,” said Hodgkinson. “You feel that you’re being held up because there is all that strength around you, it’s not lost on us, I just can’t thank people enough for their goodwill and their sentiments it makes a big difference.”
|Wills Hodgkinson during summer outing in the Okanagan. (Contributed)
It’s even more important for Wills.
“He doesn’t feel so isolated; it’s still his personal journey, it’s happening to him so he feels very alone, very scared, so anything that can remind him of home is incredible,” he said. “Wills just feels like he isn’t forgotten and that he’s still part of the real world out there, that happy world where all his friends are and he’s not just part of this scary, frightful world we’re in right now.”
Community support includes fundraisers like dinner nights at the Barley Mill Brew Pub, the next being this Saturday at 5 p.m. Last Saturday they raised over $1,700 and are hoping to sell out this week. All of the food has been donated by pub owner Andy Virk so 100 per cent of the proceeds go to the family.
Another way to support the family is through their Gofundme page: https://ca.gofundme.com/f/9-year-old-wills-fights-cancer.
And while his son took the news of his relapse last month very hard, his father says he’s rebounding in typical Wills style, in spite of his pain and fear.
“He’s still got that smile of his, he’s looking for reasons to smile, he’s trying to find those happy moments. He loves life, he’s a very brave little boy.”