'It's fun and exciting': Grande Prairie boy battling cancer to conduct Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
'When Jordan was diagnosed, our world stopped turning'
During his hardest days in hospital, when he struggled to sleep, Jordan Cartwright took solace in music.
Each night, after rounds of aggressive chemotherapy, he would ask his mother to send him to sleep with a song.
He likes classical music best, and dreamed of one day becoming a conductor.
Now that dream has come true.
On Monday, the Grande Prairie boy led the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra in a rendition of O Canada during their Candy Cane Family Christmas concert at the Winspear Centre.
Ahead of the performance, he met with the symphony's concertmaster Robert Uchida, who gave him some training in time signatures and the perfect sweep of the hand.
"This is a baton. This is the case," Jordan said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.
"I can keep it forever. Same thing as my tuxedo. I got it from the concert master.
"It's fun and exciting. And very interesting because I never heard a real orchestra before."
Jordan has Stage 4 leukemia and just completed nine months of chemotherapy at Edmonton's Stollery Children's Hospital.
The family has been staying at Edmonton's Ronald McDonald House since March while Jordan underwent treatment and it was staff at the house which organized the special concert.
It's a bright note on a terrible few years for the Cartwright family.
They moved to Grande Prairie to start over, but Scott lost his job and with Robyn seven months pregnant, times were tough.
Then Jordan got sick. He wasn't feeling like himself. His fever refused to break and doctors couldn't figure out why.
Then, one night, he started to cough up blood. He needed to be rushed to hospital, but the family didn't have the money to make the trip.
It was a desperate Monday morning. They send their daughter to school and loaded all their pop cans in the trunk so they could buy enough fuel to make the trip.
Thinking Jordan had pneumonia, doctors ordered more blood work. That small test brought an answer that the family had never imagined: Jordan had leukemia.
Doctors learned that more than 90 per cent of Jordan's cells were leukemic.
He was immediately flown to Edmonton's Stollery Children's Hospital, and the family — Scott, Robyn, Jordan, Isabelle, and baby Hope — moved into Ronald McDonald House.
Scott Cartwright says it's been a painful experience, but the kindness of strangers has allowed them to pull through as a family.
"When Jordan was diagnosed, our world stopped turning," he said. "But since then, it has started turning in a different direction. They call it a new normal, but I call it a compassionate nightmare."
Cartwright said the generosity and dedication of doctors, nurses, Ronald McDonald House, and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra has made their living nightmare bearable.
"If you could picture closing your eyes or being in such a dream that you wake up in such a panicked state that you've got the shakes and you're sweating, but then when you open your eyes, there are hundreds of people at your bedside to help you out."
"That's why I call it a compassionate nightmare ...The love of others is what's kept us going through all of this."