Guest Blog by Lisa Owen, mother and parent shares her family’s story of cancer survival
Our path to Seattle Children’s was forged nearly five years ago on June 13, 2006. You may wonder why I remember the exact day, but you would too if you were told that your son had a brain tumor.
When I learned this news, our son Keaton was just 16 months old; we had a happy, healthy three-year-old daughter, Mason, and busy lives. I can still remember this moment when time seemed to stop and our world changed forever.
When an MRI scan revealed a golf ball-sized tumor in the back of Keaton’s brain that had metastasized all the way down his spine, I remember the shock of this diagnosis – it was unbelievable.
We immediately went to Children’s to receive treatment. There we met with Dr. Russ Geyer, a recognized pediatric oncologist and brain tumor expert. I won’t ever forget what he said the day we met: “This is a really tough tumor to beat, but we are going for a complete cure.”
These words carried a weighty message – one of hope and one of his commitment to give my son the best possible care. There was one problem – I was skeptical. I was afraid that we couldn’t beat this cancer.
My skepticism was fueled by my background. As a long-time healthcare marketing professional for Merck Pharmaceuticals, I knew enough about cancer to know that Keaton’s prognosis was quite poor. I feared that it would take a near miracle to save him.
Keaton’s long treatment included surgery, three rounds of induction chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant and then daily radiation treatment under anesthesia for six weeks. It was a tough ride.
Along this difficult medical journey, we grew to trust a team of Children’s professionals who were united to not only deliver the best care possible for Keaton, but to care for our whole family. We consistently received a message of hope and commitment to care for our son. We were supported by a whole caring community.
There was our nurse, Kathleen, who would regularly greet Keaton by saying, “Hey –really big, strong man!” She was trying to make him feel strong… she was so positive and focused on his winning out over this disease. She definitely helped me take heart on even the toughest days.
There was also our nurse in the infusion center, Robin. She would always wear her dog scrubs because she knew that Keaton likes dogs so much. She came in on her day off when she found out that Keaton would be in the infusion center.
There was also Dr. Gonzalez, a first-year resident, who would often sit by my side and comfort me while Keaton was sleeping. I could steal a couple of minutes to cry without him seeing then…
There were simply countless examples of teamwork and a culture of hope that supported us.
Today, I’m happy to report that Keaton is six years old. He is cancer-free. He’s reading like nobody’s business and loves to play with his other kindergarten friends.
To have our son back is something I cherish every day. I give heartfelt credit to the amazing oncology team at Children’s. After five years of rehabilitation, he is just starting to take steps on his own again. We have a new beginning.
For our family – just like Keaton’s recent important steps –the hospital expansion represents a new beginning of sorts for Children’s.
Children’s is creating space and an environment so that more children can have the chance my son did –to be able to receive the important care that saved his life. This incredible care will happen in an environment that enables clinicians to do what they do best. I can’t think of anything more important for our community.
And for this –I am eternally grateful.