The Brown Family

Hi, we are the Brown family. My name is Carolyn, my ex-husband Rick and I co-parent 3 children. Alex, our 22 year old daughter, Orion our 11 year old son and Michael my 27 year old autistic son from a previous marriage. We moved to Arlington, Oregon in 2012. Rick serves as a Peace Officer in the area and I provide care to patients at the Veterans Hospital in The Dalles.

In June of 2022 our world was forever changed. Alex started having issues with her hands and feet, she would lose her balance and have blackout moments. Her dad took her to Providence and while she was there, they found 2 lesions, one on her brain and one on her spine. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. We’ve been seen by MCMC, Providence, Keiser Permanente and OHSU. A treatment plan has been created and with luck we hope to see positive results.

During Christmas, 2022, I noticed Orion had some issues with his legs and knees. The pain would come and go. In the beginning we thought it was just growing pains. But as the weeks went on, his pain increased, he would cry at school during any physical activities.

I tried to call his doctor who also suspected it was growing pains. The doctor told me if I was concerned, I should take him to urgent care or ER. I tried getting him into Urgent Care, we sat outside in the car for over 3 hours. We were told they were closing for the day and didn’t have time to see Orion. They told me I could try again the next day they were open.

I explained to Rick the problem with Urgent Care. Rick drove Orion to Long View WA. from Vancouver where Orion could be seen immediately. Keiser Permanente examined Orion’s leg. After an X-ray, they told Rick there was a mass in his right Tibia. The mass was consistent with Cancer.  The next day Orion had an MRI of the area. The MRI and following blood tests confirmed it was cancer. In record time, Keiser Permanente coordinated with OHSU.

Within a week Orion was in surgery to biopsy the mass. This further identified the mass as Cancer. Specifically, Osteo Sarcoma, a very rare and aggressive form of Cancer which occurs maybe 1000 times a year in the US. Prior to the biopsy, Orion’s leg buckled under his own weight. There was not enough bone left to support him. The tibia broke at the cancerous mass. Rick rushed him to the ER. Orion’s pain was indescribable. Orion’s screams in pain, his fear of death, all while he clung to Rick… may no parent ever experience that. It changed them both. Neither of them will ever forget that night.

The realization my baby boy had Osteosarcoma and could possibly lose his leg if not his life was like a knife to the heart. I felt like somehow, I didn’t do everything I could as a mom to protect both my kids. How does this happen to two kids that were healthy and happy. Neither one of these diseases ran in either one of our families yet here we are being told he needed to start chemotherapy immediately.

The cost to fight Cancer is great. Orion had to be near a hospital. He had to be in a wheel chair accessible home and he had to be able to make many appointments. Rick needed a wheel chair, a wheel chair van, an ADA apartment and a collection of tests and scans we did not know existed. Rick took time away from his career to care for Orion full time. All this came at a huge financial cost.

Orion was living full time with Rick and I was commuting every day off to be with my son. Orion’s chemo treatments included three weeks of hospital stays at OHSU every month. My days of work were filled with worry and my days off were spent in a hospital room watching my son battle cancer, chemo and every cough or cold waiting to attack his suppressed immune system.

Through it all we discovered the true secret of living in a small town. There isn’t anything about a small town you can’t learn in a day. But after a decade, the people there will always surprise you. Members of the Arlington Community, members of the medical community and Law Enforcement came together to raise funds for Orion. The proceeds helped with food, lodging and transportation.

Ultimately the surgeons agreed to replace Orion’s bones with Titanium and attempt to save his right leg. So far, the surgery was successful. We don’t know if his body will reject the artificial pieces. We don’t know if he will walk without a walker or run like he used to. We don’t know if he can keep his leg. Rick asked Orion if he wanted a robot leg, should it be necessary. Orion said it was ok if he had a robot leg. But he wanted Wi-Fi and he didn’t want hackers to mess with his leg. Orion is rough as nails.

Orion will beat Cancer. We have no doubt. Alex will manage and thrive with MS. We have no doubt. It’s been a difficult year. But there is nothing more resilient than the heart of a child. Nothing more determined than a boy who wants to run and a young woman who wants to live. While the expenses pile up and the fear only diminishes with time, these kids have all the guts they need.

Thank you to the people of the Columbia Gorge. There’s no place else like it. No better people on Earth.

May the Lord bless you and keep you safe.

The Brown family.