The family believes that having a strong faith in God and support from their community, friends, and family has helped.
When 3-year-old Crosby Bowen fell sick and threw up a couple of times in 2018, the family thought it was a bug. But suddenly, he took a turn for the worse and eventually passed away, leaving the family heartbroken and in complete shock.
“He was always going at 100 miles an hour,” dad Nate Bowen said. “He was just a silly kid. He had some silly quirks about him and just a really good kid, who had a great laugh.”
He adored his siblings, an older brother, Dalton, now 8, and a younger sister, Tessa, now 4. He never slowed down, which is why the fact that it could be cancer never even crossed their mind. “He just progressively got worse over that week, mentally and physically, but nothing that screamed brain tumor,” Bowen explained. “It was more like a physical exhaustion.”
On July 4, 2018, the family planned to take Crosby to an urgent care center, but Bowen took them straight to the hospital. “On the way to the hospital is likely when he had a massive heart attack or stroke or something like that and stopped breathing. We didn’t know,” he said. “But we could tell he’s really declining quickly.”
It was only later that the Bowen family learned Crosby had a brain tumor. By then, there was nothing doctors could do. “It was just very traumatic because it was so sudden,” Bowen said. “We got fantastic care and they brought in a child life specialist to help the kids say goodbye to him.”The doctors showed the family a CT scan that revealed Crosby had a large mass in his brain and they said he had a glioblastoma grade 4, “a very aggressive brain tumor.”
The couple lost their son but soon welcomed a little baby girl. “We decided to have another child,” he said. “We felt there was another person meant for our family. And so we had Annabelle and she’s been awesome and great.”
Soon, in 2020, they noticed that Annabelle had a bump growing on her leg. They didn’t know what it was but decided to take her to the hospital. Unfortunately in February 2021, their daughter Annabelle—who is now 2—was also diagnosed with cancer.
According to TODAY, this led doctors into trying to find a reason behind why Bowen's kids kept developing cancer.
“The doctors said, “OK, this is your second child to get cancer. Let’s test your genetics and figure this out,’” Bowen, 41, Crosby and Annabelle’s dad, said. “When you have multiple children that are young that have cancers, there’s typically this genetic mutation often associated with it.”
Multiple tests later, it was discovered that Annabelle had a rare genetic condition called Li-Fraumeni syndrome, a mutation in the TP53 gene that increases a child or young adult’s likelihood of cancer.
Even though this is something that can occur spontaneously, it is also something that can be passed through families. So, doctors suggested that Bowen also get screened for the gene and they found he had it in July 2021. “My parents tested negative on this mutation so I developed it on my own,” Bowen said. His wife, Allison Bowen, and their kids Dalton and Tessa do not have it, either.
In a bid to be on the safer side, they advised him to get a regular cancer screening done. That's when they discovered in September, that the father had a brain tumor.
“I had no symptoms,” Bowen said. “They did a brain MRI and then they discovered I’ve got a large tumor in my brain.”
Though the diagnosis was shocking, the family is trying to look at things from a positive aspect. “My daughter getting cancer led to my genetic testing, which led to cancer screenings, and allowed us hopefully to catch it early enough,” he said. “It’s one of those bittersweet things where there’s bad that comes of it. But there’s a good part.”
Since Allison's daughter and husband are busy battling cancer, she's had her hands full, taking care of them both. “I have really grown to see my wife in a different light and really respect the woman she is and how strong she is,” Bowen said. “Our love for one another has grown through the trials and we’re trying to be as positive as we can.”
Meanwhile, the family believes that having a strong faith in God and loads of support from their community, friends, and family has helped. At times, it was hard to fathom such kindness and generosity.
“There’s been this outpouring of love that we hardly expected or anticipated and we feel so blessed by all the people that have either prayed for us or kept us in their thoughts or sent us a little money because we really are going to max out our health care costs,” Bowen said. “We’ve been humbled and completely astounded.”
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