Up: Lucas Magnelli during one of his first hospitalizations. photo sent
By Aiza Shaykh
Lucas Magnelli had been going to physical therapy for a couple of years for this strange foot pain that everyone thought was Sever’s disease, a condition that causes heel pain in growing children. However, last April, Lucas and his mother, Nancy, learned that it was not Sever’s. Rather, it was Ewing’s sarcomaa very rare bone cancer.
“There are so many difficult things about cancer,” said Nancy. “All the unknowns and anxieties about prognosis, relapse, tests, scans — it’s hard for anyone, but especially a child.”
On Friday, August 5, Lucas will undergo “autograft” surgery in Boston, which involves removing a healthy piece of bone tissue from the upper leg and placing it near the ankle, where the cancerous tumor is located. The hope with this surgery is that all of the cancerous tissue in Lucas’s ankle will be removed and that his leg will remain stable and functional.
Lucas has been taking karate classes since he was six years old, and at eight he started having pain in his left foot. After being told the pain was due to Sever’s disease, a podiatrist recommended physical therapy.
“The podiatrist said physical therapy might help, but that just made it worse. [for Lucas]”, said Nancy.
Finally, Nancy decided to take Lucas to University Orthopedics, where an X-ray showed that Lucas had a tumor on his left leg.
“The doctor showed us how rare the left side is [leg] it looked compared to the right,” Nancy said of those X-rays and MRIs. “Obviously the bone was different from the right one. He was cloudy, he looked cracked.”
Lucas underwent a biopsy at Hasbro Children’s Hospital to confirm that he had Ewing’s sarcoma. He had a lymph node biopsy a couple of weeks later. That surgery was tough on Lucas.
“They didn’t sedate Lucas enough [so] he felt everything,” Nancy said of the biopsy. “Once you’re in the hospital world…you realize how many mishaps happen. People mean well and are human, but unfortunately many mistakes are made.”
So far, Lucas has gone through 6 of the 14 cycles of chemotherapy prescribed by his doctor at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Each cycle consists of specific medications that Lucas must take and he enters a new cycle of chemotherapy every two weeks. The surgery waited until now so chemotherapy could shrink the tumor, but chemotherapy will resume after surgery to make sure the cancer hasn’t disappeared. It has been a tough regimen.
Nancy said she’s concerned about Lucas’s recovery after the surgery, as he won’t be able to put weight on his leg, which means he won’t be able to walk for a minimum of three months.
“I’m petrified by it,” she said. “[Lucas] he’s a boy, he doesn’t think, he’s impulsive. I am afraid that he will get out of bed in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and put his leg down.”
Doctors are not yet sure if Lucas will require additional procedures. Friday’s surgery could provide some answers, Nancy said.
“[The doctors] he mentioned that he might need more surgeries to allow the bones to grow or remove the hardware,” he said. “There are a lot of unknowns and risks.”
Lucas just finished fifth grade at Hanaford and is preparing to start middle school at Cole in September. Since he will be recovering from surgery and people undergoing cancer treatment have weakened immune systems, he will likely “go to school” virtually.
“The risk of infection is so high that even if you can use your crutches, well… you’re still at great risk,” Nancy said.
She said that the EG community had been very supportive of Lucas and her in recent months, but things have been very difficult for them.
“Lucas is an only child and I am a single mother,” said Nancy. “It’s a really lonely and difficult place when you don’t have a lot of family to rely on.”
To make matters worse, Lucas had a pet chihuahua that he was very close to, but the dog had to be euthanized just two days before Lucas’s diagnosis.
“That was Lucas’s friend,” Nancy said. And suddenly everything got worse [when Lucas was diagnosed].”
Nancy expressed her gratitude for all the food and donations she and Lucas have received so far and said she has been unable to work while caring for her son.
“Complete strangers have left things, they have given us money,” he said. “Economically, it is difficult because I lost a couple of jobs due to COVID. And once your child has cancer, you can’t work. It’s a full-time job.”
Nancy is looking for social workers, counselors, or any mental health resources for Lucas as he battles Ewing and grieves the loss of his dog. She said that Lucas’s mental health has worsened recently and that he could benefit from socializing with others, even if it’s learning to play an instrument or talking about Roblox (his favorite game of his).
She asks that anyone in the community with those connections contact her at [email protected].
aiza shaykhA sophomore at the University of Connecticut and an EGHS alumnus of the Class of 2021, she has been an EG resident since 2008. When she’s not writing, she enjoys hiking, traveling, and eating coffee ice cream.