Owen - a defenceman, older brother and studious young boy was excited to lace up his skates last season with the St. Boniface Seals (9A2). What seemed like a normal fall for the then nine-year-old would soon change. Owen's parents Steve and Nancy recognized something different about their eldest son - a shift in the appearance of his right eye.
"There was a physical change to his eye which happened overnight," explained Steve. As they prepared for Owen's hockey season and a busy Thanksgiving weekend they made an appointment with an optometrist.
Things moved quickly.
The day after Owen's appointment, a specialist ordered a CT scan. The scan revealed frightening results: a growing mass the size of a large grape behind his eye. Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend Owen had biopsy surgery to identify the mass.
"The specialist was fairly confident about what the biopsy would reveal," recalled his parents, but they weren't prepared for what was to come next. Owen was diagnosed with Orbital Rhabdomyosarcoma. They were devastated.
The next seven months of Owen's life were completely different from those of his peers. Rather than joining his teammates on the ice, he was at CancerCare Manitoba for tests, scans, surgery, 26 rounds of chemotherapy and an extensive radiation therapy schedule.
Owen and his family weren't alone. The hockey community was by his side.
Owen's team and the entire St Boniface Minor Hockey Association rallied behind him with a community event in his honour and helmet stickers bearing his #9.
"We felt an incredible amount of support in such a difficult time," explained his parents.
During his treatment, Owen had a special moment involving the Jets. His team was invited to practice at Bell MTS Place. Weak from his treatments and nervous about germs, Owen put on his jersey and skated with his teammates for the first time since his diagnosis. He also got to meet and skate with his favourite Winnipeg Jet, Patrik Laine.
Through it all, Owen persevered.
Within two weeks of eye surgery Owen was back at school keeping up with his studies and taking up new hobbies. This spring he put pen to paper drawing Fortnite cartoons for friends, selling them for $1 each. Feeling inspired he went on to sell his drawings at the neighbourhood garage sale. With the help of some generous donations and a few close friends, Owen raised over $700 and gifted all proceeds to the CancerCare Manitoba Foundation.
Where's life now?
Owen has regained his strength and is back on the ice with his teammates. The remaining mass is shrinking and he visits CancerCare Manitoba every three months for regular check-ups and MRIs.
Treatment plans for children like Owen are based on research and clinical trials which are funded in large part by CancerCare Manitoba Foundation. Thanks to the amazing generosity of Hockey Fights Cancer supporters, trials are available in Manitoba for children with cancer.
This November marks the Winnipeg Jets' eighth Hockey Fights Cancer campaign. Fans have generously raised $765,000 over the past seven years to help local kids, just like Owen, receive care right in Manitoba. Fans can join the fight at the Jets' Nov. 5, 8, 10 and 12 home games, as well as at the Hockey Fights Cancer game on Nov. 23. Tickets at WinnipegJets.com/TICKETS and for more information on fundraising opportunities, visit WinnipegJets.com/HFC.