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Teenager Alex Mohamed went from supporting others around the world to fighting for his life at McMaster Children’s Hospital.
February 15, 2022

A young philanthropist’s journey with leukemia

From delivering important supplies to kids in South America to helping to build a school for Syrian refugees in the Middle East, teenager Alex Mohamed embraced the challenge of travelling the world to help others.

Unbeknownst to him, the young philanthropist from Cambridge would soon face the biggest challenge of his own life.

“I saw one of the most horrific sights in my life.”

“One day in March 2020, I felt chest pains while taking my bike out of the garage,” recalls Alex, who was 16 years old at the time. Assuming it was just a pulled muscle, he didn’t think much of it.

Alex’s father, Shazam Mohamed, remembers that time vividly.

“The next day, I saw one of the most horrific sights in my life,” he recalls. “Alex fell in the shower. His eyes were rolled back and his fingers were clenched as though he was having a seizure.”

Intense treatment

Alex Mohamed laying in a hospital bed

Teenager Alex Mohamed is receiving care for leukemia at McMaster Children’s Hospital

An ambulance brought Alex to McMaster Children’s Hospital, where testing led to a diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The cancer had already spread into his bones and was causing intense pain throughout his body.

“Watching my boy suffer was the hardest thing,” says Shazam. “I’ll always remember the warmth and compassion of the doctors and nurses during such an emotional time.”

Alex began an aggressive regimen of chemotherapy, which required the insertion of a port into his chest and numerous lumbar punctures for the delivery of medication.

“I felt really ill throughout my treatment, but I realized it was necessary,” says Alex. “My nausea was so strong that I couldn’t even think about food without becoming sick and I lost around 40 pounds in the first month.”

During the course of treatment, Alex also suffered a rare allergic reaction to one of his medications and went into anaphylactic shock, making it hard to breathe.

“The team reacted quickly and used an EpiPen to open up his airway,” remembers Shazam. “I was impressed by everyone’s professionalism during this scary situation. They saved my son’s life.”

The road ahead

Alex Mohamed in front of a treeAlex’s chemotherapy succeeded in bringing the cancer under control and stabilizing his condition. He is currently in the maintenance phase of his chemo, which is scheduled to continue until September 2022.

“I’m grateful for the care I received at the hospital and it feels great to know they’re always there for me.”

Until then, Alex and his family are determined to “live every day to the max” and appreciate life as a true blessing.

“Having an end date for chemotherapy in the calendar gives us something to look forward to,” says Shazam.

Although he has his good days and bad days, Alex says he knows the team at McMaster Children’s Hospital has his back.

“I’m grateful for the care I received at the hospital and it feels great to know they’re always there for me.”

Feb. 15 is International Childhood Cancer Day, and this year’s theme celebrates improved survival rates, while working to save even more children.