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From premise to promise: my company’s charity helped save my son

From premise to promise: my company’s charity helped save my son

Cancer is a topic that we hear about frequently, but it can feel like an abstract concept until it affects us or someone close to us. However, when cancer does strike, the impact is immediate and significant. Suddenly, the support of a cancer charity becomes crucial. Through personal experience, one is able to see the impact of the charity up close and understand just how vital their work is in the fight against cancer. 5 For The Fight is Qualtrics’ charity that funds cancer researchers around the world. 5 For The Fight is unique because it invites people to give just $5 to the fight against cancer, making it easy for everyone to contribute. This is Troy’s story of how, after years of donating to 5 For The Fight, he experienced the impact of their cancer research first hand.

Every May we have our 5K For The Fight Month Challenge. You can participate from anywhere in the world and you can donate to Troy's 5 For The Fight fundraising effort to honor his son and the amazing cancer researchers. 

5 For The Fight has always been one of my favorite aspects about Qualtrics. I’ve donated, run in the 5Ks, written names of fighters on my hand, and volunteered at events. I love 5 For The Fight, I just never thought I – or anyone close to me for that matter – would ever be directly impacted from its purpose. I couldn’t have been more wrong. 

My son Owen was born in October of 2021. We found out during pregnancy that Owen had something called Septo-Optic Dysplasia. It’s a rare condition where the brain doesn’t form the way it’s supposed to and Owen would have disabilities growing up. Because of this, he spent 3 weeks in the NICU. When he was 2 days old, he got an MRI to monitor what they’d been seeing in his brain during development.

I’ll never forget the call we got from the neurologist the night of the MRI. He told us that everything with his previous condition looked as they expected, but that they also found a tumor in his brain stem. His first message to us was that it was in a bad spot, likely inoperable, and would grow quickly as that’s how tumors behave in growing infants. 

Where before we had been concerned about having a special needs child, our only concern that night was to do everything possible to make sure he would be around to grow up with our family.  

Through this process, we met a new team of extended doctors, including our pediatric neuro-oncologist, and our pediatric neurosurgeon. After running another MRI on Owen, they let us know it might not be AS bad as we’d initially thought. Still bad, but it wasn’t going to be really bad for Owen in the immediacy. We’d do follow up MRIs every 3 months and monitor the tumor growth, and hopefully, be able to take it out when he grew up a bit.

At his first follow up MRI, Dec 23, 2021, they came into the room and let us know the scan showed the tumor had turned malignant, was full on brain cancer, and action needed to be taken immediately. The initial thought from the team was Owen would go through a few rounds of chemo to shrink the tumor, then get the tumor out, then follow up with a couple rounds of chemo to keep it away. Absolute devastation is an understatement. Our 3 month old little guy going through chemo? Then brain surgery? Then more chemo? Come on.

That next week, our neurosurgeon and oncologist took Owen’s case to the tumor board at Huntsman. Our neurosurgeon campaigned for opting for surgery first. He was confident he could get the tumor out, and by doing so, avoid the need for chemo as long as the tumor stayed away, and he could get all of it. As we continued meeting with him, he’d tell us about research he would do on the brain, on tumors specifically – he was just overall exactly what you’d want in a neurosurgeon. We trusted him and went for it.

In early January, Owen had his surgery. Brain surgery with a capital B as our neurosurgeon put it. 12 hours on the table and when he came out to tell us it went well and he was able to get all the tumor out, he told us it was like the most exciting video game you could ever play – he was absolutely pumped!  

Owen’s recovery from surgery was, and continues to, be a journey. His eyes lost their ability to move in coordination, he forgot how to swallow so has been on a feeding tube since, and has had to have anywhere between 3-5 therapies a week to fight the effects of such a major brain surgery. But the tumor is gone and has stayed gone. No chemo. And Owen is proving to be the toughest little dude ever.

At his 1 year post-op MRI we saw his Neurosurgeon again. He was thrilled with Owen’s progress and we were excited to be able to celebrate with him. We snapped a picture and thanked him again. 

And then we made an incredible connection. 

I shared our story and picture with Lori Kun, the head of 5 For The Fight. She immediately recognized our neurosurgeon as Dr. Sam Cheshier. When I asked how she knew him, she told me he was one of our 5 For The Fight Fellows. 

Dr. Cheshier, this neurosurgeon who performed miracles for our son, did such an incredible job with his surgery, and saved him from having to go through chemotherapy, had been researching rare brain tumors like Owen’s, all sponsored by 5 For The Fight. 

Thanks to Dr. Cheshier, that fear we had of Owen not growing up with our family is gone. And 5 For The Fight plays a huge part in that. “Cancer research” sometimes seems like an abstract idea. But the impact of 5 For The Fight was felt right here, close to home, and I could never express enough gratitude. Turns out my “5” and the 5Ks had been for Owen all along.

Join our family for the 5 For The Fight Month Challenge 2023 through: 


Qualtrics Life

Qualtrics Life is nothing more or less than a collection of the stories, experiences, and voices of the people of Qualtrics.

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