Grande Prairie boy battling leukemia gets surprise of his life with Edmonton Symphony Orchestra

7-year-old Alberta boy gets to conduct Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
WATCH ABOVE: A young boy from Grande Prairie battling leukemia is about to get the thrill of a lifetime conducting the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. Su-Ling Goh reports.

Seven-year-old Jordan Cartwright is not your average kid.

He loves classical music and hopes to be the conductor of a symphony one day.

“I don’t really like rock and roll,” he said Monday.

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He also loves lobster and he’s battling leukemia.

The young boy, who is from Grande Prairie, Alta., has just completed nine months of aggressive chemotherapy.


“Now we’re in a maintenance stage which means he gets chemo every night,” Jordan’s mother, Robyn Cartwright, said. “He gets two on Tuesdays and he gets a spinal tap every 29 days.”

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The family has been staying at Edmonton’s Ronald McDonald House since March while Jordan underwent treatment.

“We can never properly thank the Ronald McDonald House for everything they’ve done. They’ve been – and now are – our family,” Jordan’s dad, Scott Cartwright, said.

When the people at Ronald McDonald House learned of Jordan’s love of classical music, they knew they had to do something.

They contacted the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and now Jordan is getting ready to make an appearance as a guest conductor with the orchestra. His guest appearance will take place on Dec.19.

“He has no fear, it’s awesome,” Robert Uchida, the symphony’s concert master said.

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On Monday, Uchida showed him the ropes.

“He had already watched videos online – on how to conduct- I didn’t really have much to show him,” he said. “He was asking if people were going to throw roses on the stage afterwards.

“It’s an honour,” Uchida added. “I’m happy to be a small part of this moment for Jordan.”

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Jordan even got a tuxedo for the special night.

“I’m excited, I don’t want to wait,” he said.

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“He won’t go to bed without me singing him to sleep. He loves music,” Robyn Cartwright said. “He made a song when he was in isolation. He’s a musical guy. He loves to be on stage. He doesn’t get nervous.”


Despite all of this, it is a happy time for the family which has been through so much.

In July 2015, their home burned to the ground, Scott Cartwright lost his job and Jordan was diagnosed with cancer. Robyn was seven months pregnant with the couple’s third child when they got the news about Jordan.

“It {was} just an overload of information at the hospital,” she recounted.

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“They put me in a separate room. The doctor came in and told me Jordan might have leukemia and I just started crying.”

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Robyn fought back tears as she retold the story of the days leading to Jordan’s diagnosis.

“They wanted to see if he was anemic because his sister used to be,” she said. “So he got tested for that. I kept phoning and phoning and saying I think something is wrong because he just won’t get off the couch. He’d brush his teeth and his gums would start bleeding and every night he would just cry and want Tylenol for his headache.”

“A few weeks prior, he kept complaining of headaches and I didn’t really think anything of it and then he got the flu.”

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“We’d taken him back and forth, trying to get results,” Scott Cartwright said. “The weekend that it took place, my wife and I didn’t have the finances to get into Grande Prairie.

“On Sunday his nose started bleeding and he started coughing up blood. My wife. at seven months pregnant, loaded up all the pop bottles in the trunk, and first thing in the morning after our oldest went on the school bus, I walked to work. My wife drove into Grande Prairie with the intention that after getting some antibiotics at the emergency, they’d go to the bottle depot and buy gas to make it home and that wasn’t the case.”

Robyn was told 93,000 out of 100,000 of Jordan’s cells were leukemic. He was immediately flown to Edmonton’s Stollery Children’s Hospital.

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“The Stollery is amazing,” Robyn Cartwright said. “There are teams of people that try to help you.”

The family has made the Ronald McDonald House their home since March 14.

“His emotional health is a big thing,” Robyn Cartwright said.

“He feels like he’s the only kid with cancer {at home}. Being at the Ronald McDonald House, he’s just welcomed in. He doesn’t feel like he’s the only kid with cancer. They just shower him with love and kindness.”

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“As a father, if you’re considering what charity you might give a little extra to, all you have to do is walk through the doors of the Ronald McDonald House in Edmonton and your mind will be made,” Scott Cartwright said. “If I was in a different country, I don’t know that my son would be here today. I could never afford the love and kindness and the support that being a Canadian has brought to the table for us. Being a Canadian means a lot more than just a maple leaf.”

-with files from Su-Ling Goh