Markus Antony Hogg is a sweet, caring, handsome, bright and athletic 15 year old, grade 10 student at Mount Carmel. He is beyond athletic, excelling in Football, Volleyball, Shot Put, Javelin and many other sports. Markus came 9th in OFSAA for Javelin and his coaches had just asked to him to be the starting QB on the football team at school. A few weeks ago Markus’ life changed forever. He was taken to hospital after weeks of pain in his leg and lower back. Expecting a sport injury diagnosis, he and all of us were shocked to learn he had a tumour on his spine. A biopsy was taken and after two weeks of increasingly excruciating pain, on Friday October 12th came the devestating and feared diagnosis. Markus has been diagnosed with Chondroblastic Osteosarcoma which is a cancer of the bone cells. Doctors jumped into action and Markus began Chemotherapy the following day. The support from family and friends over this time has been tremendous. The total treatment plan right now is expected to be 29 weeks and he will undergo surgery likely around week 11 (after the second round of chemo). After surgery he will have 4 or 5 more rounds of the chemotherapy. Markus will stay in the hospital for at least a few more weeks (and potentially longer) until his pain levels are manageable - the tumor is affecting the nerves in the spinal chord and causing extreme nerve pain and numbness in his leg as well as affecting his mobility.
We are so lucky to know this beautiful family that gives everyone so much of themselves. This is why we feel like it is time to give back and support them in the tough months ahead. We are looking to help his parents with lost wages, daily parking costs, take out meals and any other expenses that may come up. Do not feel that any amount is too small and any donations would be greatly appreciated.
After nearly 8 months since first entering the hospital, and numerous surgeries, Markus finally finished chemo in late May. The final week of chemo turned out to be a challenging one with some complications where his system wasn’t clearing the poison out of his system fast enough putting his organs at risk, but that was thankfully rectified with a rescue drug they brought in from outside (at apparently $66,000 per dose – thank god for Ontario Healthcare!) He felt pretty crappy for about 2 weeks after that, but thankfully no apparent damage was done to his organs. His kidneys have taken a beating but they are recovering.
On Sunday June 2nd we had a surprise party for Markus at Sick Kids to celebrate the end of chemotherapy. The whole plan came together in less than a week, and with the help of some great family & friends (Tony & Susan, and my sister Kristina provided a ton of food!) we managed to keep it a surprise, and the look of shock and happiness on his face made it all worthwhile. He spent about 4.5 hours in the wheelchair which was a new record for him. It became quite painful as the afternoon wore on, but it was totally worth the discomfort.
He was scheduled to move back to Bloorview to finally start the rehab program on Friday of the same week and we were looking forward to moving forward and getting him back on his feet. Around midweek he became sick with nausea and vomiting and that persisted for a few days. The doctors decided to still proceed with the move to Bloorview as they attributed the nausea/vomiting to nerves. At Bloorview this continued and they shipped him back to Sick Kids on Sunday. Our new personal best is 2 nights at Bloorview.
On Monday they discovered he had another bowel obstruction and started ‘decompressing’ it to hopefully resolve the issue. This is done by inserting a tube through the nose into the stomach and intermittently suctioning the fluids. This was done for 24 hours and they pulled several litres of fluid out. On Tuesday he had an xray and CT scan to see what was going on and unfortunately the obstruction had not cleared – the catscan showed that it was an adhesion which means the bowels had essentially got caught up in old scar tissue and caused a ‘kink’ in the bowel hose.
Tuesday night he was back on the operating table and they had to cut him wide open again to fix the issue. Thankfully they were able to do so and all of the bowel was viable and nothing had to be removed. The surgeon did her best to tidy up and trim away the old scar tissue to try and prevent this from happening again – but unfortunately it is a very common complication from any abdominal surgery.
Markus is ok. He is recovering from this surgery and the pain is being well managed. This has obviously been a major setback and will take several weeks to recover from and is majorly frustrating because we all thought he was done with abdominal pain.
He continues to be a trooper and is determined to fight this and get back to his feet. He wants to walk again and looks forward to the weekend passes to come home from Bloorview when he’s progressed enough.
We have scheduled some nerve grafting surgery on June 24th to try and get him some functionality back in his calf muscles and feeling in the bottom of his feet. It was originally going to be in July, but since are here anyways we figured with the doctors that we might as well get it done. The recovery time for the nerve graft surgery is very minimal compared to the others he has had.
Attempt number 3 for Bloorview will be early July.
Markus’ recovery is progressing very well. Most of the surgical pain has faded and they have slowly weaned him off of most of the pain medication and many of the other meds he was taking (he was taking huge amounts of opioids for many months).
They moved him from the Sick Kids 5th floor Orthopedics post-surgical ward up to the 8th floor Oncology ward to continue his chemotherapy. He is just finishing week two of the final round of chemo and that should be wrapping up by the end of the month.
When we moved up to the 8th floor the physiotherapy really picked up in intensity as well. Krista the Physiotherapist is an amazing professional who has been working Markus hard (sometimes to tears) and we have been seeing the incredible results. He can now move his right leg quite well, and his left leg is strengthening and gaining range of motion every day. The muscles are all firing and it’s just a matter of building up the strength. She also has been working on his core muscles as well as his upper body which are all going to be super important for him to eventually stand, walk and self-transition in and out of bed into a wheelchair.
They tried to move him to Bloorview Rehabilitation Hospital on Monday May 6th but that unfortunately only lasted 24 hours. Bloorview is just not used to dealing with chemotherapy nausea which can be pretty nasty and they were concerned they wouldn’t be able to look after him properly so they shipped him back to Sick Kids Tuesday afternoon. His nausea is getting better and should be mostly gone within a couple of days so the plan is to go back to Bloorview on Monday or Tuesday of next week. He would spend a week at Bloorview and then back to Sick Kids for the final two weeks of Chemo (hopefully forever!)
During our brief stay at Bloorview we were able to get a tour of the facility and a bit of an overview how things will work. Markus will be spending 12 weeks minimum at Bloorview where he will be spending approx. 3 hours each morning doing schoolwork to catch up on credits he has missed in high school and then do pretty intense rehab in the afternoons. Bloorview has an entire wing of the hospital dedicated as a school with full blown classrooms from preschool upto high school. Bloorview is going to be a lot of work both mentally and physically, but this is what it is going to take to get him back on his feet and able to resume a normal life again.
Bloorview also has a lot of extracurricular activities open to Markus including music therapy, art therapy, and sports (like wheelchair basketball) which he is looking forward to participating in.
Once Markus has gained enough strength and ability to transition in and out of wheelchair and car he will be allowed to get ‘Weekend Passes’ where he will be able to come home Friday afternoon until Sunday evenings. We are REALLY looking forward to those, however it will probably be some time in June before he is ready for that.
We received some encouraging news from the surgeons about a week ago. They finally got the pathology results back from the tumor. There was 95% necrosis of the tumor which means the tumor was 95% dead. This means that the chemotherapy was working very well and Markus was responding to it (they often get necrosis numbers quite a bit lower). The doctors were very happy with this number.
The other thing they learned was that the ‘margins’ were clear. When they cut out the tumor they cut a safety margin of healthy tissue around it to ensure they didn’t accidentally slice into the tumor and spill cancerous material into the rest of his body. When they examined the tumor they tested this safety margin material and were able to determine it was all tumor free which means they likely left nothing behind and got it all out. Again this is very good news.
The additional 3 rounds of chemo he has received post-surgery should obliterate any cancerous cells that were left behind.
Markus is nervous about the transition to Bloorview, but is also looking forward to it. He knows that it will be very difficult and at times will be very painful, but he recognizes the more he puts into the physiotherapy, the more he will get out of it.
He has had quite a few visitors over the last months and these visits continue to help lift his spirits. Friend therapy is still super important for his mental health and helps pass the long days. Visits are encouraged at Bloorview after 4pm Monday –Friday and anytime on the weekends.
We would like to thank everyone for your love and support. It’s been incredible how many people have reached out to us offering assistance, have dropped food off and just been an ear or a shoulder to lean on. We truly appreciate it and hope we can someday repay the love and kindness in some way.