It started with strep throat.
“He just never seemed to get better,” said Mittie Fox, Owen’s mother. “About two days into our vacation, his neck started to swell, … so we went to urgent care. … They said, ‘Well, let’s give him some steroids for the strep, maybe that will calm it down.’”
Then, Mittie said he started having back pain, so she took him to the ER.
“I said, ‘This just doesn’t feel right. Something is going on,’” she said.
Mittie said they came back to Owen’s pediatrician in Atlanta and he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia June 20, 2011.
“He called us at 3 p.m. and said, ‘Go directly to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (at) Scottish Rite (in Sandy Springs). They’re waiting for you,’” Mittie said.
Since then, the Fox family of Grant Park has endured more than a year of constant hospital trips for Owen, who just turned 7, to receive chemotherapy and radiation.
“I did not like it,” Owen said, who described his mother as an “awesome mom.”
Mittie said, “When Owen was diagnosed, he had this beautiful head of hair but he was so sick, and we would be out, just living life, and he looked normal, but we were falling apart. So when his hair fell out in clumps, it was kind of like this signal to the world: ‘Everything’s not OK. We’re doing the best we can.”
However, Mittie said Owen is currently in the maintenance phase of his 3.5 years of treatment, which is less intense than the first year.
“This is kind of what we’ve been hoping to get to,” she said. “He takes chemo at home and he still has clinic visits but they’re more like once a month.”
Additionally, Mittie said the doctors and nurses at Scottish Rite provide any kind of resource the family seeks, both emotionally and physically. She said Owen is “tough” and is still on track in the second grade at Wesley International School in southeast Atlanta.
“He’s inspired my husband and I because he’s been through so much,” Mittie said. “That’s why we want a cure. … We’re tired of this ride.”
Mittie’s friend Angela Russell formed Team Owen in 2011, within the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which conducts the annual Light the Night Walk Oct. 13 in Centennial Olympic Park. Walk Senior Campaign Manager Whitney Schaffner said the goal for this year’s event is $1.3 million. The society’s Georgia is based in Buckhead.
September marks National Leukemia Lymphoma Awareness Month, and there will be a “Dine-Out” fundraiser at Six Feet Under near Grant Park Sept. 17 at 4 p.m.
Additionally, Art for Owen will be Oct. 5 at the Alan Avery Art Co. in Buckhead from 7 to 10 p.m.
Last year, Team Owen raised $20,000 toward blood cancer research and is projected to exceed that this year. Owen was also named the society’s Boy of the Year.
“I can feel it in my bones that there’s a cure right around the corner,” Mittie said. “I feel like we can do it. We’ve raised so much money with just our little group of family and friends. I’m very positive and optimistic that it’s coming and I think we’ll see it in my lifetime. That’s my hope.”