It’s every parent’s worst nightmare, the death of a child. For Greg and Leone Ottenbreit of Yorkton, their nightmare was all too real. On Feb. 11, 2000, their five-year-old son Brayden passed away after an almost two year battle with cancer.
In Brayden’s case, he was diagnosed in March 1998 with Ganglioneuroblastoma. It’s cancer that is between malignant and benign. His cancer was intertwined throughout his spine.
The news was devastating. For the Ottenbreit’s it was a time when they had some very direct conversations with God. As a result, they found their faith and courage to deal with whatever lay ahead.
“Regardless of not knowing what this is, we were not going to let it tear our family apart,” explained Greg Ottenbreit.
Brayden’s treatment included a 14-hour surgery, rounds of chemotherapy, and radiation. At the end of the summer in 1999, cancer had spread to his brain. He underwent radiation as a final attempt to rid him of the disease. In early January 2000, a follow-up MRI showed that radiation therapy didn’t work. The doctors told the family there was nothing more they could do with treatment. It was important to keep their son comfortable for whatever time he had left. That time turned out to be a few weeks.
Through the ups and downs of Brayden’s cancer, the Ottenbreit’s faith grew stronger. Leone Ottenbreit remembers when she realized faith would help them through this.
“I’d gone for a walk down by the river just after we’d gotten the diagnosis. I threw my hands up and said, ‘God, he’s just a little boy, how could this happen?’”
She says it was at that moment a calm washed over her. She knew that whatever lay ahead, regardless of the outcome, they’d get through it.
As Brayden declined cancer paralyzed half his body. The morning he passed he was lying in bed with mom and dad.
“The odd thing was, he rolled on his back, lifted his good arm and his paralyzed arm to the ceiling, his eyes opened. They were both clear and his mouth was a perfect smile. He laid back down and crossed his arms on his chest and then he passed away.”
The year Brayden was diagnosed, they wanted to do all they could for him. They decided to hold a head-shaving fundraiser.
What started out as a family affair grew over the next year. When year three rolled around Brayden had passed. But, the family was encouraged to do the event in his memory.
“It blew up that year. We raised about $65 grand and it was the gambit of children to old people to cancer survivors to cancer families. These people wanted to take part,” explains Greg.
Brayden Ottenbreit Close Cuts for Cancer is now in its 23rd year. The causes have varied but over the last five years. Yet, almost $119,000 has been raised for cancer research done in Saskatchewan.
The Ottenbreit’s have experienced cancer in ways most can’t imagine. From their son to Greg their parents and extended family, they have seen cancer from all angles.
“I was so impressed with the Agency and how all the treatment worked and the professionalism,” he says. Diagnosed in 2017, Greg is in remission and doing well.
Their experience has made supporting the Cancer Foundation of Saskatchewan even more important.
“I celebrate all that we do stays in the province because I’m proud of this province,” says Leone.
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