'He still has a smile': Man walks through northern Quebec for grandson with cancer

James Neeposh is walking a long way in a northern Quebec winter for his 13-year-old grandson Phoenix Neeposh. 

The 53-year-old grandfather left the James Bay community of Mistissini last Wednesday, and will walk about 250 kilometres to Waswanipi. The journey is expected to last a week on foot.

Phoenix was diagnosed with osteosarcoma — bone cancer — at the age of eight in 2014. Since then, Phoenix's cancer has come back seven times.

"A few years back he had his knee removed where the cancer was and was given an artificial knee. The cancer has spread to his lungs now," explained James in Cree.

In a roundabout way, James is also walking for his son Eugene Neeposh — Phoenix's dad. 

I want to be present and spend as much time with my son as I can. - Eugene Neeposh, Phoenix's father

Since his son's diagnosis, Eugene and his family have been dealing with a storm of stressors, from overwhelming worry to financial stress. 

Submitted by Eugene Neeposh

A large part of the financial stress comes from needing to travel from Mistissini to Montreal, for months at a time, to access treatment unavailable in the North. 

Each time on top of managing the care, Eugene said he found himself needing to fundraise — doing draws, raffles and walkathons to support their trips to the South. 

"A lot of money is needed when you stay in Montreal for a long period. This is why [James] is walking to raise funds for our grandson," said Lina Neeposh, Phoenix's grandmother, in Cree. 

James has been raising funds from members of the public, who are sponsoring his walk, through private EMTs. The money raised goes towards Phoenix's medical expenses and the family's trips south to his medical care.

'A lot of people are praying for him'

"It's a big load off my shoulders to not to think about what am I going to do next — with a draw [or] what can I buy? What should I do next? " said Eugene. He said the money James is raising through the current walkathon will allow him to soak up every moment with his son. 

"I want to be present and spend as much time with my son as I can."

Lina Neeposh/Facebook

Eugene said despite the physical challenges, Phoenix continues to make those around him see the humour in things. 

"I've learned a lot from him," said Eugene. "He's only 13 and he has cancer and he still has a smile on his face."

He's only 13 and he has cancer and he still has a smile on his face. - Eugene Neeposh, Phoenix's father

Phoenix is currently undergoing another round of chemotherapy and a decision will be made in early January whether to risk another surgery to remove his left lung, where the cancer continues to spread.

"It is really hard to see our grandson go through this, but we know a lot of people are praying for him," said Lina, Phoenix's grandmother.

Eugene Neeposh/Facebook

"I want to say to the people: 'Don't stop praying for him. We don't know what the outcome will be.'" 

As of Monday morning, Phoenix's grandfather James was out on Highway 113 in northern Quebec, walking in between the turnoff for Oujé-Bougoumou and Waswanipi.

James is expected to arrive Wednesday and is inviting people to walk the last bit with himself, Lina and a few friends.

Lina Neeposh/Facebook