At 13, Justin Alexatos beat cancer, but he still has a long way to go as a survivor.
On Saturday, Justin underwent a 13-hour surgery to remove a Ewing sarcoma tumor on his right leg. Ewing sarcoma is a rare type of cancer that occurs in bones or in the soft tissue in the legs, bones of the pelvis and arms of patients generally 10 to 20 years old. Treatment includes chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation.
Last year, Justin, who lives in North Port and attends SKY Academy of Englewood, had 12 chemotherapy treatments at Tampa General Hospital. Without an surgery, Justin, an athlete could have lost his leg.
“There are only about 350 cases of this cancer so it’s pretty rare,” said Justin’s father Jerry. “The only good thing is it’s curable and Justin is technically considered cancer-free. The problem is he is only at the half-way point in his treatments. There were some complications after the surgery and we don’t believe he will be out of the hospital by Saturday as we hoped.”
Alexatos said Justin still must undergo 11 more chemo treatments to ensure the cancer is completely gone and the tumor doesn’t return. During surgery, he had 12 centimeters of his bone removed and replaced with a bone graft from his calf.
Alexatos believes Justin may have suffered some nerve damage, but hopes it’s not permanent. He’s having pain in his left leg, which wasn’t supposed to be impacted by the surgery, according to Alexatos.
Understanding Justin’s family has tremendous medical bills, Roman’s Service Cooling & Heating and Pama Auto Brokers are co-sponsoring a fundraiser.
From noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, at 1050 Innovation Ave. Unit B-114, off Toledo Blade near Imagine School of North Port, guests are invited for cornhole, face painting, and delicious dinners of pulled pork, mashed potatoes and green beans. Alexatos said one of Roman’s Service Cooling & Heating customers is spending four days baking cookies for the event.
“An ex-football player is coming to teach kids some football techniques,” Alexatos said. “The Do the Happy Bounce is bringing a bounce house for kids. We also have dozens of raffles. We will be doing them most of the day.
“Justin tried out and made the baseball team at SKY Academy but he was sidelined by the cancer,” Alexatos said. “He went to the practices and cheered for the team from the sidelines. He has been working remotely and misses his classmates and teachers. They say he might not be able to play sports, but I know Justin will beat the odds. He wants to play for the NFL Seattle Seahawks and says he wants to buy his mom a new house.”
Justin’s older sister Brianna, 15, has two wishes for her brother who can’t be at the fundraiser. She’d like children to come and make cards or write letters for him. She also hopes to get a projector and show Justin what’s going on during the event. Otherwise, she will Facetime him so people can speak to him during the fundraiser.
“This has brought us together as a family,” Alexatos said. “My wife Kelli was a mess. We take turns at the hospital when I have to leave for work.”
Alexatos said he could use a few more volunteers to help with Saturday’s event.
Two other fundraisers are planned for Justin.
North Port comedian Gid Pool, who has performed all over the world, has a show for Justin at 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Olde World Restaurant, 14415 Tamiami Trail.
“Justin (Willis) from the nonprofit When All Else Fails, asked me if I could help,” Pool said. “My mother, both grandmothers, and a grandfather died of cancer. I’ve also got another comedian donating time, Mark Evans of Carnival Cruise Line.”
Jim Kiefer from the local band Maiden Kane worked with Willis on a benefit concert from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on March 21, at the Twisted Fork, 2208 El Jobean Road in Port Charlotte, off State Road 776. Brake Fail will be performing from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Bandana begins at 6 p.m. All money raised during this event will go to the family for medical bills.
For reservations for the Gid Pool event, call the Olde World at 941-426-1155. For more information about the concert, call 941-218-0303. To volunteer for the Saturday fundraiser reach out to Jerry Alexatos on his Facebook page.