Update: Toddler battling cancer passes away

Alex Hornbeck
Alex Hornbeck(Angela Hornbeck)
Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 8:13 PM EDT
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At just 18 months old, Alexander Hornbeck passed away on July 17th after a battle with cancer. He is survived by his mother, father, two siblings and four grandparents. An obituary is forthcoming.


Little Alex Hornbeck is in the fight of his life. On Thursday, July 2 he was taken by ambulance to J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown where tests revealed an aggressive form of cancer. His mother says doctors believe it originated in his liver, but that it may not be liver cancer. They are conducting more tests to get an accurate diagnosis. The cancer has spread to his heart and other parts of his body.

Just a few days after being taken to Morgantown, Alex had open heart surgery. A string of cancer had grown from his liver into his right atrium.

“It covered between 70 and 75 percent of that atrium,” said Angela Hornbeck, Alex’s mother.

The cancer in his heart was hanging from the stem which grew from his liver in a way his mother described as “like a paddle ball, that string with a ball attached to it.” Fearing that the cancer would break off and block the lungs, doctors operated and were able to remove it.

“It would have been instant death,” said Angela Hornbeck. “Thank God for all of the prayers and everything everyone has given us. It was encapsulated, so when they did the open heart surgery it came out entirely.”

But the fight isn’t over. Alex still has cancer all over his body. Doctors decided to try chemotherapy on Thursday for the first time. Angela says they’ve told her it won’t affect how Alex’s chest heals from the open heart surgery.

In part to help her cope with the situation and in part to help document her son’s life, Angela has started a public journal on Facebook. She calls the page “Alexander Hornbeck - the fight of his life.”

The journal tells Alex’s story from his perspective, though Angela is behind the keyboard. She wants people to connect with him on a personal level, which is part of the reason she is writing it from his perspective. She says she is writing the journal in part to help her son understand what he went through as a toddler, but she also wants to help other people in her shoes.

“We’ve been really blessed that we’ve not really been touched with cancer or this type of thing before, so we are so far out of our element that it’s not even funny,” said Angela Hornbeck.

Angela says hearing about other people’s experiences has helped her cope with her son’s life-threatening illness. She’s thankful for the support the family has gotten so far and says she is “staying strong.”

Her husband is in Parkersburg with her older two kids during the week, while Angela stays with Alex in Morgantown. The two switch places on the weekend.

Copyright 2020 WTAP. All rights reserved.

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