A very tired Wills Hodgkinson cuddles against his dad Tim, during a surprise trip home in April 2018. The family is back at B.C. Children’s Hospital after Wills’ cancer resurfaced. (Steve Kidd - Western News Staff)

A very tired Wills Hodgkinson cuddles against his dad Tim, during a surprise trip home in April 2018. The family is back at B.C. Children’s Hospital after Wills’ cancer resurfaced. (Steve Kidd - Western News Staff)

Nine-year-old Penticton boy faces return of lung tumours

After a year free of cancer, Wills is back at B.C. Children’s Hospital

It’s some of the worst news a family could get at Christmas.

Just one year after doctors said Wills Hodgkinson didn’t need any more treatment, two new tumours were discovered on the nine-year-old’s lungs.

“We don’t know what his prospects are. It’s grim,” said his dad, Tim Hodgkinson.

Two-year-old Scarlet cuddles with her big brother Wills during his 2018 ordeal. )Photo courtesy Tim Hodgkinson)

In Feb. 2018, Wills was diagnosed with a Wilm’s tumour, a rare kidney cancer that primarily affects children. The usual treatment is to remove the tumour and the affected kidney, but in Wills’ case the tumour had grown so large it had fused to his pancreas, spleen and colon.

That meant weeks of heavy chemo in an attempt to shrink the tumour enough it could be removed safely. The second blow fell when ongoing testing discovered eight more tumours on Wills’ lungs.

A healthy, active kid prior to the diagnosis, Wills fought through, and survived, nearly a year of chemotherapy, surgery and illness as he beat back the cancer. By the end of 2018, Wills was visiting the Western News office declaring “I’m done with cancer,” and chatting about plans to play soccer with first the Pinnacles, then the Whitecaps and finally Chelsea F.C. in London, England.

Read more: A South Okanagan family’s year-long journey

Of course, Wills wasn’t done, even then. But it looked good. The kidney tumour was removed, and months of treatment had shrunk the lung tumours — four were gone and the remaining ones were small and stabilized.

Now, the lung tumours are back. Tim said his son was finally getting back to a regular routine and both the physical and emotional scars were healing.

“He was putting both of those in the past, right?” said Tim. “He was clear for a year, absolutely clear and we were trying to get him back into the day to day routine; catching up with schoolwork, playing football (soccer).”

Read more: Cancer survivor stars in Whitecaps/B.C. Children’s Hospital promo

Throughout his 2018 battle, Wills showed a strong survival drive, which Tim is hoping will help him again.

“Survival drive… I’m not trying to delude myself but truly he does, you know, and so we’re banking on that being one of the key factors,” said Tim.

If it’s possible, the second time around is expected to be more difficult and dangerous. The new tumours are in the same area as the earlier ones, which Tim said is causing concern for Wills’ treatment team.

The first surgery is planned for Dec. 20, to remove the smaller of two tumours and conduct a biopsy to help determine how aggressive the cancer is. The results, ironically, are expected on Dec. 23 or Christmas Eve itself. A new round of intense chemotherapy starts Dec. 30.

All through the crisis, Wills had his family by his side: dad Tim, mom Neeley Brimer and his young sister, Scarlett. Now they are back at B.C. Children’s Hospital and told to plan for a long stay at Ronald McDonald House.

Tim said the family is grateful for the community support during the 2018 ordeal and they hope people can help again as they prepare for another long battle.

Read more: Community shows support for seven-year-old battling cancer

“We have been forced to drop everything once again in order to be with our son through this latest ordeal,” wrote Tim on a GoFundMe page, adding they would be grateful for any help, large or small, on both domestic and medical fronts.

“This includes the possibility of using breakthrough technology now available in the United States which is expensive and right now is beyond our reach,” wrote Tim.

Tim has also set up a foundation to encourage support from organizations and corporate interests not only for Wills but others like him at www.wilmsfoundation.com.

To contribute, search GoFundMe for “9 yr Old Wills’ Fights Cancer.”


Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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