Brayden Ottenbreit Close Cuts for Cancer

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare, the death of a child. For Greg and Leone Ottenbreit from Yorkton, their nightmare was all too real when 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, a cancer that is between malignant and benign. When he was diagnosed, the 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, and as a result 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.

Over the next two years, young Brayden would undergo a 14 hour surgery, rounds of chemotherapy and radiation.  At the end of the summer in 1999, the cancer had spread to his brain. He underwent radiation as a final attempt to rid him of the disease. In early January of 2000, a follow-up MRI showed the radiation therapy had not worked. The doctors told the family there was nothing more to be done other than 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 and 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 the 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.”

With the resolve to do all they could for their son, the year Brayden was diagnosed the family wanted to support him by holding 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 just 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 just wanted to take part,” explains Greg.

Brayden Ottenbreit Close Cuts for Cancer is now in its 22nd year. The causes have varied but over the last three years approximately $100,000 has been raised for cancer research done in Saskatchewan.

The Ottenbreit’s have experienced cancer in ways most don’t ever want to imagine. From their son to Greg’s cancer to their parents and extended family they have seen cancer care in Saskatchewan from all angles.

In fact, in Greg’s job as the Minister of Rural and Remote Health he’s been a part of the system as a policy maker and a patient. In one instance, he received radiation treatment in the morning and returned to the Allan Blair Cancer Centre in the afternoon for the ribbon cutting of a new linear accelerator.

“I was really impressed with the Agency and how all the treatment worked and just the professionalism,” he says.

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.

This years Close Cuts event takes place on May 25 at the Parkland Mall in Yorkton. You can donate to this cause by Clicking Here.

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