Alex Tingay was in denial he when he received his diagnosis.
It began with a bump on his neck, which he initially assumed was nothing more than a cyst. As summertime turned to Christmastime and the bump grew larger, his parents took him to his doctor for an ultrasound, which yielded a visit to a specialist for further testing.
The prognosis: Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system.
"I was kind of like, 'I don't know, I don't really think it's cancer. Maybe they're just wrong,'" Tingay recalled. "I just waited for a week. Once I started getting calls from SickKids for appointments and chemotherapy, then it started to sink in.
"I was like, 'OK, this is what I have. There's nothing really I can do about it now. I've just got to go through it, do whatever I can and try to move on.'"
For the next year and a half, Tingay put his head down and made the most of his cancer treatments at SickKids, a children's hospital near his hometown of Brampton, Ontario. He volunteered to participate in mock interviews with nurses and doctors in training and joined a photography program with fellow patients.
He was, however, sidelined from the sports he loved. Tingay, who says he's been on skates since he learned to walk, plays hockey both for his high school and for Brampton at the AAA level. He's also an avid lacrosse player.
"The hardest thing for him was, once he got his treatments started, he couldn't do any of his sports," his mother, Holly, said. "He had to sit on the sidelines and watch. That was hard to watch, because he's such an active kid. But he was a trooper through the whole thing."
With that passion in mind, Alex and his family decided to take a trip to the NCAA Lacrosse Championships in Boston upon the completion of his treatment last spring. It went so well that he decided to reach out to The Children's Wish Foundation of Canada about doing the same with hockey.
That request culminated with Alex attending the Frozen Four in Buffalo this past weekend, where Sabres alumni Jordan Leopold was on hand to help make Alex's wish come true.
Alex, his parents and his younger brother attended all three games, which concluded with Minnesota Duluth's championship victory over Massachusetts on Saturday. They had access to postgame interviews, attended the Hobey Baker Award Ceremony at Harborcenter and skated on the KeyBank Center ice with Leopold following a lunch at Chef's.
Alex said his own aspirations of one day playing college hockey played a part in making his wish.
"When you see it on SportsCenter, the highlights and stuff, you're like, 'Wow, I want to play for them and I want to do that,'" he said. "I just think coming to watch is something cool I can do for now until maybe one day I get to play there."
To that end, there are few people better equipped to offer advice than Leopold, a Hobey Baker winner and national champion with the University of Minnesota. Alex said meeting and having lunch with Leopold was the highlight of his weekend.
"It feels like now we could call him up next week and say, 'Hey, we're coming to Minnesota, can we come for dinner?'" Holly said. "He's just one of those people. He's just very genuine."
"He's not what we expected," Alex's father, Brian, added. "Like, hockey guy, OK. He's beyond that."
As much of an impact as Leopold made, the weekend opened Alex's eyes to other options he could pursue to achieve a career in sports, too. He took note of the different staff members he met from the NCAA and the Sabres, from community relations personnel to members of the media.
He has plenty to plan for. His checkups are bi-annual for two more years then annual for two years after that. Other than that, he says, his life is back to normal.
"To watch over the last eight to 10 months, watching him get stronger all the time and healthier, it's just been amazing considering where he came from just over a year ago to today," Holly said. "It's amazing."