BENTLEYVILLE – As 10-year-old Aidan Knox whispered jokes into his brother’s ear, 5-year-old Dylan delivered them with rapid-fire precision, leaving everyone in stitches.
It was good to hear laughter in the Knox home, where, for much of the past year, worry, fear and tears had resided.
But Lance and Jamie Knox have plenty of reasons to smile these days.
After enduring a grueling nine-month regimen of radiation and chemotherapy for Ewing’s sarcoma, their son Aidan was given a big thumb’s up from doctors Aug. 23 after body scans showed no signs of cancer.
“He doesn’t realize how strong he’s been,” Jamie said. “He’s been fantastic. He took it better than we did.”
There is a reason for that.
“I had not heard much about it. I just thought cancer makes your hair fall out,” Aidan said.
Shortly after his diagnosis, Aidan addressed teachers and students at Bentworth Elementary School, telling them, “Even though I may look different, I’m still the same kid.”
Which is to say, he didn’t lose his sense of humor, compassion or determination, maintaining good grades despite being unable to attend classes throughout his ordeal. On Tuesday, he returned to school – this time as a fifth-grader. His favorite subjects, he said, are math and science.
Ewing’s sarcoma is a rare form of bone cancer. Aidan’s cancer was contained to his spine, where he began to experience pain last July. Twice he was treated for bone infections before a cancer diagnosis was made on Sept. 21, 2012.
“It was 2 centimeters in his body, and they found it,” Jamie said.
The aggressive treatment included multiple two- and five-day stays for chemotherapy in the Oncology Child Life Department of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, plus 31 weekday radiation treatments.
As a result, Aidan developed numerous fevers, low blood counts and infections that often required emergency trips to the hospital and various blood transfusions.
Still, the only time he complained – or cried – was when he was stuck with a needle.
“On clinic day, he had to have his port accessed, then deaccessed for chemo, which is one of the biggest challenges, and happens over and over for him. Any needle poke sends him into a crying panic,” Jamie wrote on the family’s Facebook page, http://Facebook.com/LiveTheProof.
Lance created the Facebook page in November, and later a YouTube channel called “Songs for Aidan,” with the hope that musicians and artists would offer a word or two of encouragement for Aidan and play a song for him.
The response was overwhelming, with songs and well wishes coming from around the world. They definitely lifted Aidan’s spirts and helped his family get through some of their darkest days.
“I was not in a good place when this happened,” said Lance, his eyes welling with tears as he stroked his son’s bald head. “‘Songs for Aidan’ really helped me focus, and corresponding was theraupeutic. Just seeing how much love people have is so amazing.”
Steve Burns of “Blue’s Clues” fame performed his song, “Mighty Little Man,” for Aidan, and the family’s favorite artist, Jim Broggia, a singer-songwriter from Philadelphia who, in 1998, co-wrote “Glory,” performed an exclusive version of “Live the Proof,” a song about the power of positive thinking and positive action.
Songwriter Brandon Schott of Los Angeles offered an intimate take on his song, “Turning Toward the Sun,” which he wrote when he was in treatment for cancer. The video, Lance said, “gave us hope to see that this journey doesn’t always end in sadness.”
Thanks to those who contributed to “Songs for Aidan,” the family released a charitable compilation to raise money, at Aidan’s request, for the pet, art and music therapy programs at Children’s Hospital’s oncology unit. That CD sold quickly, and the Knoxes have since released Volume 2, which includes “Live, Laugh, Love in Color” by Tinfeathers; “Colors,” Logan Vath; “You Only Get What You Give,” Kailynn West; “Invisible Mohawk,” The Danzas; “Song for a Boy,” Robert DeStefano; and “Home,” by Reluctant Dragon. Volume 2 also contains “other goodies,” according to the family, and can be purchased for $7.
In addition, the family will hold a “Songs for Aidan” fundraiser in October at Christian W. Clay Winery in Chalk Hill to benefit the Oncology Child Life Department.
“People really were ready to wrap their arms around us,” said Jamie, noting that teachers from Bentworth Elementary volunteered to help Aidan at home with his schoolwork, parents within the district cleaned house for the couple and friends cooked meals.
“So many people gave so much to us it’s impossible to repay them,” she said. “The least we can do is give back to the kids who don’t have the support.”
When Aidan was well enough during his treatment, he was able to do some fun kids’ stuff. The family took a trip to Chocolate World in Hershey on Mother’s Day, and they attended a Pirates game on Father’s Day with other cancer patients. In June, he attended an end-of-the-year picnic with teachers and classmates at Cedar Creek Park in Belle Vernon.
For the most part, though, when he wasn’t in the hospital, he was homebound.
“One of the biggest things that helped was the chemo didn’t make me throw up,” said Aidan, who also enjoys playing LEGOs and video games and hanging out with his brother and his dog, Champ.
Aidan received his final chemotherapy treatment Aug. 7, and on Aug. 24, he took his first motorcycle ride, courtesy of Bentleyville FOE 1809 Eagle Riders, who sponsored a “Ride for Aidan.”
“When we left the unit for the last time, it was bittersweet,” Lance said. “I never thought we’d feel that way when we went there last September and saw the word ‘oncology.’ It was terrifying and gut-wrenching. Then, after a while, there was not a place we’d rather be. No one gets a funny look because all the kids with cancer have no hair.”
To purchase a “Songs for Aidan” CD, visit www.live-the-proof.com/index.html.
‘Songs for Aidan’
Lance and Jamie Knox are hosting a fundraiser, “Songs for Aidan,” to give back to the community that helped them get through their son Aidan’s extensive chemotherapy and radation treatments for bone cancer.
The event will be held from 2 to 6:30 p.m. Oct. 13 at Christian W. Clay Winery in Chalk Hill. There will be music, wine and hors d’oeuvres.
Featured performers include Jim Broggia, Tracy Grammer and Brandon Schott.
Tickets are $30, and all proceeds will benefit the music, art and pet therapy programs at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. To purchase tickets, visit www.live-the-proof.com/songs-for-aidan-benefit.html or email firstname.lastname@example.org.