HAMILTON - The parents of an 11-year-old Hamilton boy who was forced to undergo chemotherapy against his wishes have agreed to respect the medical decisions of his doctors - for now.
An agreement reached Tuesday between lawyers for the family and the Children's Aid Society will see the boy, who has leukemia, returned to his parents' custody after he's released from hospital.
The boy's father and stepmother lost custody to the CAS when they tried to refuse any further painful chemotherapy, a decision that went against the diagnosis of medical officials who said the boy would die within six months without treatment.
The boy and his parents will now heed any decisions made by doctors, but the agreement also gives them access to a world-class expert - free of charge - to research if there are any treatment alternatives to chemo.
The father, who cannot be named to protect the boy's identity, said he's relieved that he can now pass some good news on to his son, who had grown increasingly despondent and run down in recent days and just wanted to go home.
"Right now we had to play by their fiddle and that's fine," said the boy's father, who vowed to continue his fight against more chemotherapy, which he said could go on for 22 months, pending the meetings with an expert.
"I feel very happy. I'm very excited that I'm going to be able to go visit my son whenever I please, and when this treatment is over I'm going to be able to hold him and maybe even sleep with him and comfort him."
The boy's family had worried that he was giving up hope and would only get more sick if he gave up fighting.
"We told him, 'Don't worry buddy, please try to be healthy, relax, relax, relax, relax,' and he even said to me, 'I don't care. They can even kill me with their chemo and stuff I don't care, as long as I can come home and be home with you and mommy," he recalled.
"You know what that feels like to hear your son say that?"
The agreement, which states that all sides believe the "best interests of the child are paramount," was endorsed with "no hesitation whatsoever" by Superior Court Justice Alex Pazaratz, who said the boy must be protected from any additional and unnecessary stress.
The agreement will require that the boy is shielded from the media and from the details of the case so he can heal without being constantly reminded of the legal battle. Media will not be allowed to interview the boy or contact him, directly or indirectly.
"The bottom line is this is still a child, a child who has rights, who has feelings, who has vulnerabilities," Pazaratz said.
"It occurs to me this child is going through so much."
The father said that even when his son is allowed to return home it won't be a completely happy reunion, since he'll still be weak from his chemotherapy and life will be far from normal.
"But I can start sitting with him and playing his hand drum with him and singing his songs with him that he's written and helping him write his stories again, because he loves to write stories," the father said.
The boy hopes to finish writing a story called Walking in Faith before he gets too sick so he can share his story with other sick kids.
"It's all about his cancer journey that he's had because he wants other families and other children to know what he's been going through and how his faith has taken him this far," he said.
"At least he'll know that his voice got out and maybe it'll help some other family have courage and faith to fight and go on and go on."
The boy was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when he was seven. After enduring his first tough experiences with chemotherapy his cancer went into remission, but returned earlier this year.
When told last week that he'd need to undergo more chemo he refused and his father decided they would try some alternative therapies.
But medical officials insisted that he needed the treatment and said the boy wasn't capable of making his own life and death decisions.