Benefit to help teen with bone cancer |

Benefit to help teen with bone cancer

BRECKENRIDGE – Armando Tovar’s doctors prescribed anti-inflammatories and physical therapy when the 14-year-old dislocated a knee while skateboarding three years ago.

But the problems didn’t go away. So his mother, Liz, took him to another orthopedic surgeon in January.

“They took one look and said it was a tumor,” she said. “It’s huge. It starts at his kneecap and goes three-quarters of the way up his femur.”

The Breckenridge teen since has undergone numerous rounds of chemotherapy, surgery to remove cancer from his lungs and intense chemical applications directly to the tumor. After the first such application, the osteosarcoma mass shrank by 30 percent, Liz said, and doctors expect a second procedure to reduce it even further.

Then, doctors will either replace the femur with one from a cadaver, fuse the femur or amputate his leg, Liz said. In the meantime, the chemicals used to combat the tumor might be what’s causing Armando’s hearing loss.

“One problem we have is that he’s growing,” she said. “This cancer is real unique. At first, it feeds on the injury, then it attacks the bone along with his growth spurt. It grows like crazy.”

So do the medical bills.

A week in the hospital cost $60,000 – and that didn’t include the oncologist. Many bills haven’t come in yet, Liz said. Armando still faces additional chemotherapy, prosthetic evaluations, physical therapy, tests and psychological assistance. And officials in Liz’s small-group insurance plan are contesting many of the procedures.

Friends will hold a Mardi Gras benefit to raise funds for Armando Tuesday at Main Street Station in Breckenridge. Town festivities that day include a 4:30 p.m. Mardi Gras parade, which culminates at Main Street Station. There, people can partake in food, alcohol, music from the Harry Baxter Band and a drawing for a golf trip to Carmel Valley, Calif.

Armando, who hasn’t been in school since the winter break, will attend the benefit.

“It’s about community spirit,” said Bonnie Smith-Allen, who’s helping with the benefit. “It’s supporting someone in the community. It’s a great way for the community to give back to them and show them they matter.”

Liz said she must believe his chances of recovery are 100 percent.

“It can’t think of anything less,” she said. “We’re real positive. We feel we’re going to get the cancer after surgery – we can’t consider the alternative. Every now and then it’ll hit me, but I have to stay really upbeat. Five years ago, they’d amputate and think everything’s OK, then it would show up rampant in some other part of the body and the kid would die. We’re hoping with this protocol, we’ll prevent it from showing up in other parts of his body later.”

The ordeal also is difficult for Armando’s 12-year-old brother, Alejandro.

“He’s faced with a lot of emotions,” Liz said. “He’s lonely and sad, then he gets jealous of all the attention his brother gets, then he feels guilty. It’s a tough thing on the whole family.”

Liz, a single mother and 24-year Summit County resident, said she’s embarrassed by – but appreciative of – the attention the community’s given her.

“This community is amazing,” she said. “I’m humbled to have so much support.”

For more information or to volunteer, contact Bonnie Smith-Allen at (970) 453-0765, or e-mail at bonnie@

What: Benefit for 14-year-old Armando Tovar, who has osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer

Date: March 4

When: 4:30 p.m. parade on Main Street; festivities to follow at Main Street Station

Cost: Benefit tickets are available for $10 at the event or by calling Kathy Byrne at (970) 453-9400. Ticket-holders are eligible for a three-day golf vacation trip for two at Quail Lodge Resort in Carmel Valley, Calif. The package includes airfare and golf.

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or

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