Teen, saved from amputation, begins the next chapter of his life

During the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation’s Radiothon in August, you met Philippe Villeneuve, a 17-year old undergoing treatment for bone cancer. We wanted to let you know he is doing well, has completed his chemotherapy treatments and has left the hospital finally! Just before he went home, The Children’s organized a little surprise for him.

While Philippe is grateful for the specialized care he received at The Montreal Children’s Hospital (The Children’s) over the last 11 months, the 17-year old was pretty stocked to bid farewell to his health care team. In mid-September, the teen walked out of the hospital once and for all, and on his two feet, thanks to The Children’s.

This young man’s medical odyssey started in October 2020. The avid hockey and baseball player attended a high school sport-study program. While jogging during gym, he had a sudden and severe pain in his left knee that brought him to the ground. The consensus was a sprained knee, but despite rest, the pain increased. As it turns out, the prognosis was far worse.

After consulting with Dr. Robert Turcotte, orthopedic surgeon and musculoskeletal oncology specialist at the McGill University Health Centre, Philippe found out he had osteosarcoma - bone cancer. A tumour was growing on his femur, thighbone, just above the knee.

Under the care of The Children’s hematologist-oncologists Drs. Catherine Goudie and Surabhi Rawal, pivot nurse Paula Jofre and many others, Philippe started round after round of chemotherapy in November 2020. After each chemo session, Philippe stayed in the hospital for three to 10 days to allow his immune system to recover; he returned home for three days and started the routine again. Along with losing his hair, having no appetite, coping with nausea and fatigue, confinement to a hospital room triggered anxiety.


One surgery after another

Due to the size of the tumour, Philippe was worried his surgeon might need to amputate his leg at the hip. The young man’s fervent request to Dr. Turcotte was to save his leg. Thankfully, amputation wasn't necessary, but Philippe underwent a 10-hour surgery in February 2021; the surgeon removed his femur and replaced it with a stainless steel and titanium prosthesis. Some of his leg muscles and a portion of his tibia, calf bone, were also removed. The athlete had to learn to walk again.

Philippe would also undergo two additional surgeries, first on his right lung to remove a cancerous tumour and then the left lung, which, thankfully, ended up being tumour-free.

As a surprise, when he was getting ready to leave the hospital, Philippe was introduced to Maxime Gagnon, president of Hockey Québec’s parahockey commission, and Raphaëlle Tousignant, a member of the national women’s parahockey and men’s Quebec parahockey teams. Raphaëlle was treated at The Children’s 10-years ago for the same type of bone cancer as Philippe, which required her right leg be amputated. She offered to introduce Philippe to the sport.

The young man says he plans to take things one day at a time. But he has had to adjust his aspirations. His dream of becoming a firefighter is over. He is taking off school to focus on his rehabilitation to improve his ability to walk and regain his strength and endurance. Then who knows, his options are wide open.

As Mahatma Gandhi said: “The future depends on what you do today.” Philippe’s future begins now