The last weekend of October 2016 will always be firmly implanted in Amanda Hopkin's memory. It was all such a whirlwind for her and her seemingly healthy eight (8) year-old son, Owen.
Owen was in the midst of his fourth year of playing hockey with the Cloverdale H4 Wildcats. During that month of October, Amanda noticed Owen wasn't quite himself. He was leaving the dinner table halfway through his meals, and odd sign for the young athlete. Owen's coach, Tyler Erickson, also noticed something wasn't right. Owen was curiously fatigued at practice, often lying on the ice for a while before getting up. He would site at the bench with his head down in his skates.
After Erickson approached Amanda, she took her son into the hospital for testing. When the results came back, she learned that Owen ha an extremely aggressive cancer called Burkitt's Lymphoma.
"You never think that's going to happen to your child," said Amanda. "Within 48 hours I went from having a healthy kid to one that had cancer."
Owen was in the fight for his life. After being rushed to the hospital, Owen endured one of the toughest weeks of his young life. He had an IV line poked straight into his chest shortly after his diagnosis. Later that week, they drilled into his spine to take samples of his bone marrow. By7 the following Sunday, he was undergoing chemotherapy.
Burkitt's Lymphoma is one of the most aggressive cancers known to man. When Owen's tumour was first discovered it was the size of a golf ball. Within 24 hours of being assessed, the tumour had doubled in size. "At its largest point it was the size of a large watermelon," said Amanda.
The Cloverdale H4 Wildcats banded together and helped raise money for their teammate. Shortly after Owen's diagnosis, the team put up a GoFundMe page to help pay for expenses. "Without his hockey team, we wouldn't have made it," Amanda said.
The team would go visit him in the hospital as a team, making the trek out from Surrey to put a smile on his face. During the season, they would also tape their sticks purple in honour of Owen. What the team didn't realize at the time is that they were all in for memorable experiences, thanks to another noteworthy sports organization in the city.
Owen was selected as one of the Canucks junior trainers during the Canucks first preseason game in 2016. He was living the dream of young Canucks fans everywhere, as he sat on the bench watching the Canucks skate onto the ice. It was the first time Owen attended an NHL game. After his diagnosis, the Canucks rallied around him. Chris Tanev and Ben Hutton in particular spent a lot of time with Owen and BC Children's Hospital.
Early in 2017, Owen and the entire Wildcats team enjoyed a spectacular night. The Canucks offered the entire team and their parents tickets to the a game against the Florida Panthers, the night where Henrik Sedin scored his 1,000th point.
Owen had surgery to remove part of his tumour just seven (7) days before. During the procedure, they also removed parts of both his small and large intestine.
Amanda looks fondly upon Owen as he hits the ice again with his team at Cloverdale Arena, just 10 months after his diagnosis. "It's amazing to see him back on the ice," said Amanda. "I never thought he would play hockey again."
"I feel good," Owen said after practicing for the fourth time since his return.
Owen's story is one of perseverance and survival, but it doesn't come without fear of the future.