Boy’s wish comes true
Owen Ross made one big wish as he battled cancer — he wanted to see where his dad grew up.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation made his dream come true and brought the teenager, his younger brother Colin, 11, his mother Nicole and dad Cameron to Bermuda for a weeklong holiday.
“My dad grew up here and went to high school here,” Owen, 13, told The Royal Gazette. “He would always talk about Bermuda and talk about it and talk about it.
“It sounded really cool. I wanted to go somewhere tropical because we live in a cold place. I wanted to snorkel and see all the fish.”
The family, from 108 Mile Ranch in British Columbia, Canada, arrived in Bermuda on Sunday and are staying at The Fairmont Southampton; they have already been taking advantage of the snorkelling opportunities.
“We saw barracudas and really big fish, such as giant parrot fish,” Owen said.
“We're just going to be snorkelling every day around either here or going to Tobacco Bay or something like that.”
Owen had blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm, a rare, clinically aggressive hematologic malignancy, diagnosed on August 7 last year. He had started to feel unwell while on holiday and his parents took him for blood tests. They came back abnormal and the family was referred to The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
“They kept saying ‘it looks like leukaemia, but not really',” Mrs Ross said. “There's never been a child in Canada that has had it, ever.
“You don't believe it. And then to hear that it was so rare and that they'd never had a case in Canada — that was the worst.”
Mr Ross added: “We were just going day to day, hour to hour. The type of cancer he had usually presents in skin lesions and it didn't with him, and it doesn't present in spinal fluid and it did with him. He's very unique.
“The silver lining to that was our oncologist was dealing with some of the best oncologists in the world on a weekly basis to discuss his case.”
Mrs Ross added: “It was pretty tough. He was quite far gone. But we're so lucky that leukaemia can be treated, and his type of leukaemia can be treated just with a daily chemo as a walk-in clinic thing.”
Owen and his mother stayed at the Ronald McDonald House next to the BC Children's Hospital in Vancouver while he received chemotherapy treatments up to five times a week. He also had to undergo cranial radiation therapy in June.
“He did remarkably well,” Mrs Ross said. “He didn't even lose his hair until June.”
She added that her son is now cancer-free, with no evidence of leukaemia cells in his spinal fluid or blood. “The doctors are amazing these days. We were diagnosed August 7, 32 days later he was in remission.”
But he has to continue chemotherapy treatments for three years to ensure it stays away. He has to take two different chemo pills every day and once a month he has to get chemo at his local hospital.
“But every three months, I go to Vancouver and get chemo in my spine,” he added.
It was the hospital in Vancouver that referred the family to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Mrs Ross said the thought of a trip to Bermuda kept them going throughout the treatment: “That's what kind of dangled as a carrot. We looked forward to it the whole year — we didn't think it would ever really happen. It's incredible; any child with a life-threatening disease gets to make a wish. We couldn't believe it.”
Mr Ross, who graduated from Mount Saint Agnes Academy in 1985, explained that his son has always wanted to be a marine biologist: “That was one of his dreams, that's why I told him about all the fish here.”
A keen fisherman, Owen said he is looking forward to going fishing on a boat the most, although this trip still has to be organised. Colin, meanwhile, is looking forward to having a fun summer in Bermuda.
“I really like it,” he said of the island. “I'm just looking forward to having fun this summer after all this.”