Ever since he could walk, Liam Fanning has done nothing but play soccer. His mother, Cory, always found him kicking the ball around instead of watching shows or playing video games.
“If he wasn’t playing soccer, he was watching it on TV. That would be the only thing he’d ever watch,” Cory said.
One day in February, Liam was practicing before a soccer game when Cory noticed he was limping. She told him to stop playing, and although he listened, he didn’t want to. A few days later, Cory noticed he was still limping and decided she needed to take him to a doctor; nothing prepared her or her husband, John, for what was going to happen next.
“They (the doctors) took an X-ray and found a cyst. For about two weeks, they told us it was just a benign cyst and he had it removed,” Cory said. “A week later on February 21, they called and told us it was cancer.”
Liam’s official diagnosis is osteosarcoma. According to cancer.org, “osteosarcoma is the most common type of cancer that starts in the bones. The cancer cells in these tumors look like early forms of bone cells that normally help make new bone tissue, but the bone tissue in osteosarcoma is not as strong as that of normal bones.”
Having a child suffer from cancer is not something any parent should have to go through. Cory and John knew they had to find the best treatment possible for their son and decided to take him to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).
A few weeks later, Liam started ten weeks of chemotherapy before he was able to get his rotationplasty surgery, which would remove the bottom of his femur, his knee, and the upper portion of his tibia and fibula; then the lower part of his tibia and fibula would be rotated 180 degrees and reattached to his femur. While the rotationplasty surgery would lead to a long road of rehabilitation, Liam chose this route because, with a prosthetic, it provided him with the best chance of being able to play soccer again.
The decision for Cory and her family was tough, but one of the only options that would get Liam back doing what he loved most, playing soccer. “All the other choices would not get him back to playing soccer which is all that he wanted to do,” Cory said.
Today, Liam is still undergoing chemotherapy and will most likely complete treatment by the end of the year. Although this year has been extremely tough for the entire Fanning family, Ray Gaddis has been a light for Liam on some of his darkest days.
“It’s been amazing because the days are very dark of chemo and he looks forward to anything that has to do with the Union - whether it’s coming to a game, practice, or getting a text message from Ray. Even when we’re in the hospital, he watches the games,” Cory said.
For a while, Liam had stopped watching soccer all together because he thought he would never be able to play again, but having Ray enter his life and become a part of his journey reignited Liam’s love for soccer.
Ray, who often turns to his faith, has used that to be there and support Liam in any way he can.
“He’s been an inspiration. I’m proud of him for his strength and the strength that the Lord has given him to withstand the therapy and continue to battle with everything. His family is a great support system and it means a lot to me,” Ray said.
Each day may not be the best for Liam, but knowing that Ray and the Union are there to help have made a significant difference in his life.
“I don’t know if they (Ray and the Union) realized how much of an impact everyone has had in our life,” Cory said.
For some, it’s the little things that make a huge difference.