Funny, intelligent and kind are just a few of the words that describe Tristan Peck. His family affectionately affirms that he is a trooper and with good reason. Hardships in life are almost guaranteed, but it is this young man’s ability to “go through it, but not stay in it” as his mom Deirdre says, that is truly miraculous to watch.
Tristan has always been a fun-loving guy and growing up he was never too far away from his beloved BMX bike, his favourite video games or Army Cadets. Being an active teen, when he felt an odd knee pain he didn’t get too alarmed and simply chalked it up to growing pains. Even when the hurt persisted, he never seemed to slow down. There was no way to predict what was really happening below the surface of his aching knee.
While enjoying a day off from school with a couple of friends, ever-increasing knee pain indicated that something was truly amiss. When the pain became too much to bear, Tristan collapsed. Luckily, kind passersby came to his aid until his family could arrive. Tristan was transported to CHEO by ambulance and despite the pain his spirits were high. Torn ligaments and broken bones were the first thoughts that came to mind and the family prepared themselves to hear that news. However, when CHEO doctors took an x-ray of his knee, Tristan’s bone was so thin that they couldn’t tell if it was broken. They needed an MRI to confirm what they already knew: something was seriously wrong.
The diagnosis of osteosarcoma came as a shock, its ebbs and flows carrying confusion and uncertainty. As the family slowly began to ready themselves for the fight against cancer it was difficult to accept the life-altering changes to come, but with characteristic determination Tristan declared right from the start, “I am going to beat this.”
Eight months of intense chemotherapy did little to quiet Tristan’s strong-willed nature and it was important that he played an active role in his care. When the prescribed treatment did not shrink the size of his tumour, CHEO doctors knew that surgery to remove his knee was their best chance to win the battle. But it was up to Tristan to decide which procedure was right for him. Once he understood that a full knee replacement would leave him unable to do many of the things he loved, he chose to undergo a rotationplasty surgery which amputates the knee, then rotates and attaches the lower leg to the upper leg so that the foot and ankle can work with a prosthesis to maintain movement and allow the patient to run, bike, swim and more.
With four parents, three siblings and many friends, Tristan’s cheering section is standing room only – an entire community banded together in a show of support fuelled by love. Although he doesn’t think of himself as a hero, many would be quick to disagree. “Him being positive through the whole thing helped us get through it all. Without him being strong, we wouldn’t have been able to deal,” his dad Andy lovingly professes. It is clear that this fourteen-year old is nothing short of inspirational. These days, Tristan is getting more comfortable with his prosthesis and looking toward the future. Long-term goals include a career in engineering and the Canadian Army, while short-term plans find Tristan on his BMX bike, fitted with a special pedal that will keep him on two wheels for as long as his heart desires.