30 DAYS/30 STORIES® 2023
Owen has always been the kid with a youthful spirit but with an old-soul foundation. He has a quick-witted personality and loves sports, friends, family and camping. He is a big brother and our oldest child who doesn’t generally complain of physical ailments. In mid-July 2022, Owen started to complain about sporadic and seemingly-random abdominal pain. Seemingly-random to us, as this pain was only mentioned by him on the weekends and not during the week when he was with friends and doing activities at summer camp. After the second weekend of complaining about this pain, he asked me to make a doctor appointment to figure out what was going on. The appointment was made and life continued. During the mid-week appointment, he was not actively experiencing pain. The physical exam did not result in any obvious conclusions. Bloodwork was ordered for several possible explanations, which we did immediately. The results obtained by Friday, August 5th and all levels were considered normal. A typical summer weekend proceeded, with more off and on abdominal pain and ending with a Sunday of swimming and sunshine. All seemed well until Owen suddenly left the pool and screamed in excruciating pain. This was a very different response. We rushed Owen to the ER. The severity of his condition quickly escalated. More bloodwork, scans and assessments were done, which identified a cause within hours, intussusception of the small bowels. The solution was emergency surgery. We talked the risks, the unusualness of a 9 year-old with this condition, and Owen was rolled into the OR. The surgery was successful, however a small portion of small bowel tissue was resected that no longer appeared healthy. There were no swollen lymph nodes or other obvious indications of a bigger problem during the surgery. The tissue was sent off to pathology and relief set in while Owen recovered. Our “expected” discharge day is when our world changed with a diagnosis of Diffused Large B-Cell Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Cancer. Your 9 year-old son has cancer. Shock, fear, sadness all overcomes you at once. How could a kid who just competed in baseball tryouts have cancer? Leaving day became the day that we were quickly thrown into the world of pediatric cancer. His initial staging scans and central line were completed within a day of the news. A treatment plan days after that. Ultimately it was determined Owen was DLBCL, Stage III. A stomachache was our only warning.
The next four months flipped our family upside down. Owen and I remained at the hospital for the majority of that time. Four rounds of treatment…all inpatient, filled with pills, chemotherapy and lumbar punctures. His dad and brother stayed at home, visiting after school / work. The old-soul part of Owen helped push him through this time. He understood what he had to do. His young spirit took a hit. To suddenly shift from friends, sports and fun to the world of hospital, hair loss and cancer was hard.
The day Owen had his central line removed, his active treatment was done. This journey does not really end but morphs into the next phase. For several years, Owen returns every three months for checkups, labs and imaging. Life continues, but when the next checkup is near, the quiet anxiety creeps in. We now know the reality of how quickly your life can be flipped upside down. Despite all of this, Owen continues to show his strength and resilience. He was able to compete on a tournament baseball team this past spring (months after ending treatment), return to school and is rocking his new, curly hair.
Owen’s medical care team has been amazing as are organizations like PCFLV. The different ways they help the entire family during the turmoil is incredible. Meals, gift cards and activities to help rejuvenate that young spirit of not only Owen but the entire family are just a portion of how they help. They continue to be a part of your journey even as you enter the next phase. No child or family deserves to go through pediatric cancer, but having this extended support system certainly helps to take a part of the burden off of your shoulders.
Written by Owen’s mom, Sarah
Please consider helping children with cancer and others in our community by scheduling a blood donation at Miller-Keystone Blood Center: https://donor.giveapint.org/donor/schedules/zip