Blind Ottawa 10-year-old dreaming of a pro skateboarding career


Ollie mentioned it’s a good sport for him now that he has misplaced his sight as a result of skateboarding is about really feel.

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In the course of the hardest a part of his most cancers therapy three years in the past, Ollie Acosta-Pickering and his household put collectively a listing of causes for him to get higher.

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Close to the highest of that listing, even greater than them, his household jokes, was skateboarding.

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By then, Ollie wanted motivation. The uncommon, aggressive most cancers — Anaplastic Massive Cell Lymphoma — he had been recognized with months earlier had unfold to his mind and backbone, leaving the eight-year-old Ottawa boy blind and in want of intense ache medicine. He went by way of two relapses after preliminary remedies. His physique seemed like a pin cushion from the fixed poking and prodding, mentioned his mom, Daybreak Pickering,

In the meantime, his health-care suppliers confronted shrinking therapy choices to coincide with new limitations brought on by COVID-19. A deliberate stem cell transplant with an abroad donor needed to be cancelled when air journey shut down early within the pandemic.

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Nonetheless, he by no means stopped asking whether or not he might return to skateboarding —  a sport he began earlier than he turned in poor health.

These pleas intensified after Ollie, now 10, went into remission with the assistance of a last-ditch drug designed to deal with lung most cancers. That enabled him to bear a profitable stem cell transplant in the summertime of 2020. His sister Abby, 11 years previous on the time, was the donor. He’s now most cancers free.

Ollie mentioned it’s a good sport for him now that he has misplaced his sight as a result of skateboarding is about really feel. “I wished to get again on my skateboard so badly after the stem cell transplant.”

His mom wasn’t shocked. The ever-active Ollie had organized video games of flooring hockey at CHEO whereas present process chemo, hauling an intravenous drip line behind him as he performed. However skateboarding was one other degree for a kid who had been by way of what her son had. “A part of me was similar to … why would I ever allow you to, blind after a stem cell transplant and most cancers, get on a board? You possibly can kill your self.”

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However after studying a few Canadian Nationwide Institute for the Blind program in Calgary to assist blind and low-vision youth skateboard after which discovering an area teacher desirous to work with Ollie, she agreed.

“It was one of many issues that basically motivated him to get effectively, so how do you say no?” she mentioned. “You’ll be able to’t work this difficult to avoid wasting your little one and never allow them to stay.”

Right now, a 12 months and a half after he returned to skateboarding, Ollie is making exceptional progress together with his teacher, Jordan Wells, whose day job is working with particular wants kids at an Ottawa elementary faculty. The 2 have developed a detailed bond.

“It comes all the way down to the belief that we now have for one another, making a whole lot of these items doable,” mentioned Wells.

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Final week, after a couple of false begins and no less than one fall, Ollie efficiently “dropped in” to a bowl at The Yard, the indoor skateboard park in Metropolis Centre the place he takes classes. The maneuver includes dropping down from a flat floor right into a steep bowl, 5 toes deep, on his skateboard. Wells was teaching him and ready on the backside.

Ollie then repeated the trick, cheering every time and hugging Wells.

One other teacher, watching from the sidelines, shook his head in amazement, saying it is among the scariest issues he has ever executed.

“The quantity of braveness it takes to do that is off the charts,” he mentioned.

In December, Ollie did the trick for the primary time with an viewers — a video crew from the Canadian Most cancers Society. After falling twice, Wells informed his pupil he didn’t have to try it, however Ollie was decided.

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On the prime “he took some deep breaths and calmed himself,” mentioned Pickering.

“I held my St. Christopher medallion and mentioned ‘Please assist me’,” Ollie recalled.

When he succeeded, members of the video crew had been in tears.

The video is a part of a brand new marketing campaign from the Canadian Most cancers Society selling palliative care and urging policy-makers to take away limitations so extra folks can get entry to it.

For Ollie, it was a game-changer throughout a bleak interval. It helped higher handle his intense ache. It additionally offered counselling; artwork and music remedy; and different assist that helped his entire household.

“This stuff introduced the sunshine,” mentioned Pickering. “They gave him goal to attempt to get by way of.”

Respite and end-of-life care are key elements of palliative care, mentioned Pickering, however it’s about greater than that.

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Though they by no means needed to make the most of it, Pickering mentioned Ottawa is fortunate to have Roger Neilson Home, the pediatric palliative care hospice on the grounds of CHEO for end-of-life care.

“Kids spend their final days with their households there in probably the most lovely method doable, and are handled with dignity and humanity.”

However solely about 15 per cent of individuals with life-limiting diseases get entry to palliative care, says the Canadian Most cancers Society.

Whereas palliative care was a part of the assist that helped Ollie and his household get by way of his ordeal, he’s now centered firmly on the longer term. And he’s planning.

“Skateboarding will at all times be my factor,” he mentioned throughout an interview together with his assist canine Hope close by. “I’m focusing all my consideration on turning into a professional boarder sooner or later.” Ollie conceded that he must do effectively in school as a result of he may want one other job.

Ollie would additionally prefer to be a paralympic athlete. He briefly interrupted an interview to ask Google whether or not skateboarding was a Paralympic sport. Not but, however most likely quickly.


10-year-old Ollie Acosta-Pickering, who is blind after cancer treatment, is relearning how to skateboard with the help of Jordan Wells at The Yard. January 20, 2023.
10-year-old Ollie Acosta-Pickering, who’s blind after most cancers therapy, is relearning methods to skateboard with the assistance of Jordan Wells at The Yard. January 20, 2023. Picture by Errol McGihon /Postmedia

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