Keene's Crossing Elementary fourth-grader begins battle with osteosarcoma

Daniel Roberts, a fourth-grader at Keene’s Crossing Elementary, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in his right leg in February.


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  • | 12:15 p.m. March 8, 2017
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HORIZON WEST  Daniel Roberts is a typical 9-year-old boy. He loves Star Wars, Minecraft, WWE wrestling, the New York Giants and playing outside with his friends.

He is a fourth-grader at Keene’s Crossing Elementary, loves riding his scooter to school and attends the after-school STEM program. 

And as Daniel embarks on a long, difficult treatment path after his cancer diagnosis in February, he’ll do so knowing that fight is just a part of him. He’s still Daniel, his mother, Catherine Inman, has reminded him. He’s still funny. He’s still the jokester.

 

FINDING A DIAGNOSIS

 

 

Inman said it started in January when he first began complaining about pain in his leg. He found it painful to walk and go up the stairs.

“We thought it was probably growing pains; he’s 9,” Inman said. “I let it go for a week, but I was talking to him and he said it hurt really bad. This had been the second or third time he’d complained about it.”

The pediatrician said it could have been a pulled tendon or growing pains. Daniel was told to rest and ice his leg for a week, and didn’t participate in P.E. at school — a tough task for an active kid who loves being outside.

“One time, his sister wasn’t feeling well, and I couldn’t take him outside. He told me I was denying him his fresh air,” Inman said with a laugh. “I had to give him credit for that — it was a creative thing to say.”

But a week later, Inman noticed he was still limping on it. He’d be playing outside with his friends, and she noticed him favoring it when he was running. That’s when they noticed a knot on his leg.

They were referred to a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Florida Hospital, and an X-ray on Thursday, Feb. 16, revealed what looked like his femur bone peeling away from a tumor and regrowing around it. Immediately Daniel went in for a CT scan of his lungs and an MRI. On Friday, they were referred to UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville.

It all happened fast from there. Daniel received a full bone scan and biopsy in Gainesville that Monday, which confirmed he had osteosarcoma — a type of bone cancer. He was admitted Thursday, underwent surgery Friday to get a port installed and began chemotherapy Saturday.

He’ll complete 10 weeks of chemo, then have another bone scan and MRI. After the scan the current plan is for Daniel to have surgery on his leg, a rotationplasty —  the cancerous portion of his leg will be removed, and the remaining limb below rotated and reattached. Essentially, his ankle will become his knee and he will be fitted for a prosthetic from there down.

The silver lining is the cancer is not anywhere else in his body or in his growth plates, and the tumor was caught early. He’ll undergo treatment for the next 10 months.

“Thankfully, he was persistent in saying, ‘Mom, my leg still hurts,’” Inman said. “He’s never had a hospital stay or anything like that, so this was his first overnight stay and first surgery, so he was very scared. I told him, ‘I can help you get through this and be your cheerleader, but I can’t make you fight it — that has to come from you.’”

 

SUPPORT SYSTEM

 

Although life is going to be a little different for Daniel, the jokester hasn’t lost his charm, sense of humor or caring nature.

“When we first told him he had cancer, he was more worried that he was going to get other people sick and that would be why he couldn’t go back to school,” Inman said. 

Since he was diagnosed, his classmates have written get-well cards and even held a small fundraiser for him at Summerport Village’s March food truck night. His mom said he reads every card.

“He’s amazed at how much people care,” she said. “He’s like, ‘I’m just me.’ I told him, ‘You’re a kid who had something happen to you that’s very unfortunate, and it tends to bring out the best in people when they try to help and be there for you.’ He has so many people in his corner rooting for him and cheering for him.”

Aside from missing school, Daniel also is worried about the eventual loss of his hair from chemotherapy. 

“The kids still include him; they don’t look at him any differently because he’s still Daniel,” Inman said. “I told him that just because you might be bald, that doesn’t change who you are. … It’s just a speed bump in life that happens. It’s trying to to find our new normal.”

The support has been overwhelming. Inman’s co-workers have taken up a collection for the family, and a longtime friend set up a GoFundMe account to help cover travel and medical expenses.

“As a mom, you worry about the world your kids are growing up in,” she said. “And then something happens and people rally around you. The text messages, Facebook messages, phone calls … I can’t say thank you enough for everyone’s support.”

 

Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected]

 

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