During the winter break, in December 2013, Owen was looking forward to a family ski vacation in Vale. At the time, 9-year-old Owen was a sporty, active and somewhat daring boy who loved to ski the most challenging runs. Just prior to the vacation Owen caught a cold and even after most of the symptoms had subsided he was feeling fatigued and unwell.
After arriving at the ski resort Owen told his parents that he didn’t really feel like skiing but after encouragement he decided to ski the less challenging hills.
Upon return to Toronto a visit to his paediatrician indicated that Owen had pneumonia. A course of antibiotics didn’t help and, in fact, while on the antibiotics he developed a fever, leading to a trip to The Hospital for Sick Children's Emergency Department. The diagnosis of pneumonia was confirmed and a different antibiotic was started.
When this second course of antibiotics appeared to have little effect, Owen’s worried mom brought him back to SickKids. She noted that Owen was pale and fatigued and she was worried that he had perhaps become anaemic.
Shortly after having blood work done, the physician came into the room, closed the curtain and told Owen’s mother, Lesly, that Owen had leukemia.
Lesly remembers thinking to herself “I think that this doctor is telling me that my son has cancer. But that can’t really be what she is saying to me.” That sureal feeling persisted for awhile while Lesly and Owen tried to absorb the information.
Owen began high-intensity chemotherapy the very evening of his diagnosis. For the next 12 months he underwent front line active treatment.
He transitioned to the maintenance phase of treatment in January 2015, which allowed him to do oral chemotherapy at home on a daily basis and to come to clinic for chemotherapy and monitoring as an outpatient.
On February 3, 2016, Owen’s chemotherapy treatment was completed. After 682 days of chemotherapy and 89 nights in the hospital Owen was cancer-free. He continued to be monitored by the oncology team at SickKids.
In March 2017, Owen began exhibiting symptoms that were concerning. He was seen by his medical team and the family received the news they feared...Owen had relapsed. He was admitted immediately to begin intensive chemotherapy and the plan was for him to proceed to bone marrow transplant in June 2017.
Unfortunately at the completion of chemotherapy doctors gave the family difficult news. The chemotherapy was not effective and he could not proceed to bone marrow transplantation. But, they had another plan.
During the summer of 2017, Owen became the first child at SickKids to receive a new form of immunotherapy treatment known as CarT Cell Therapy. After this treatment, there was no evidence of leukemia. It was a successful bridge to get him as healthy as possible for his life-saving transplant. Owen underwent his bone marrow transplant in October 2017 and there’s hope for a healthy life ahead.