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How CHEO helped a little boy with cancer be able to run and play again


Parker McDonald loves being on the go. You can find him on the hill snowboarding, on the pitch kicking around a soccer ball, or on the ice or as a member of the South Stormont Selects hockey team.

"We're pretty active family and a lot of sports and dance and a lot of fun stuff," said mom Stephanie.

But that all changed in August 2022, when Parker woke up one morning with a bump under his knee.

"Wasn't complaining of pain or anything, so I took him to emerg thinking he had, like, a bug bite, and they quickly realized it was something different," Stephanie said.

Tests at CHEO confirmed the Long Sault, Ont. resident had an aggressive form of cancer that grows in the bones.

"Hearing the words, 'your son has cancer' — hearing that, I mean, just shatters you," she said.

"Our lives changed instantly," added dad, Matt. "It was the hardest day of our life."

They met with a team of doctors including CHEO oncologist Dr. Raveena Ramphal.

"This was a type of tumor called Ewing sarcoma and required treatment with chemotherapy and surgery and possibly some radiation therapy as well," said Dr. Ramphal.

Parker would also need to undergo life altering surgery and doctors felt he was the right candidate for a rotationplasty.

"A rotationplasty is where you have to remove the tumor from the leg, but then you try to preserve as much of his leg as possible," said CHEO pediatric spine surgeon Dr. Kevin Smit. "So all you have to do is take the leg, shorten it, and turn it halfway around where the ankle becomes the knee. They still need a prosthesis, but it's a shorter prosthesis. So it lets them run, jump, play, and get back into sports."

Parker McDonald was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. He underwent chemotherapy, radiation and a complex surgery know as rotationplasty, which involved removing the cancerous bone from Parker’s leg and turning his ankle into a knee joint.

Suddenly the McDonalds' lives centred around Parker's admissions, which were not always easy.

"It was a very tough, tough time for all of us," said Stephanie. "I mean, we come from a place where we weren't familiar with anyone who had cancer. The treatments and all of that were all new to us."

But they had support from CHEO's child life specialists.

"I can't thank Child Life more for making him smile through such a tough time," said Stephanie. "And so it's nice to have another set of hands there to help you know you as well as him and make him laugh and smile through that whole process."

The nine-year-old is nearing the end of his treatment. Thanks to CHEO, Parker has his life back.

Parker McDonald's rotationplasty, allows him to use a shorter prosthetic, which lets him run, jump, and play sports.

"I want to thank everybody in 4 North and Child Life, Dr. Smit and Dr. Ramphal," said Parker.

"We asked a lot of him, and he rose up to the challenge," said Dr. Ramphal. "His walking may not be exactly the way it was before he had the treatment, but we've got him back to the point where he's enjoying life again, and he's just a regular kid, and that's the aim."

"None of this is possible without other people support, without donations, from our supporters in the community to help provide these services for these children here at CHEO and provide world class care," said Dr. Smit. "When you see Parker a year and a half later and he's able to run, jump, he's getting back into skating. It's just inspirational to see these kids and what they're able to do."  

The 41st CHEO Telethon continues all week on CTV News Ottawa, CTV Morning Live and Newstalk 580 CFRA, with the grand finale on CTV Ottawa Saturday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

You can make a donation to the CHEO Telethon online at or by calling 613-730-CHEO (2436). Top Stories

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