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13-year-old leukemia survivor, athlete tells how St. Jude saved his life

Dori and Owen Church. (KIRO Radio)

If it weren’t for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 13-year-old Owen Church might not be alive today.

Diagnosed with leukemia at age 4, Owen spent nearly three years bedridden, fighting against a disease that was trying to destroy his young body from within.

“It was pretty scary because all of these doctors and nurses were rushing around trying to get me into the hospital and hook me up and stuff like that,” he said. “But then it was a lot better because all of the doctors and nurses are the best at making the patients and the families feel very comfortable.”

Throughout the ordeal, Owen kept a positive attitude. He laughed now at the memory of his mom enjoying rubbing her hand along his then-smooth head when the chemotherapy made his hair fall out.

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“There are some bad days and some good days, but you’ve just got to get through it,” he said.

In 2019, nearly seven years after beating cancer, there’s no stopping Owen. He’s the point guard for his basketball team, wide receiver and cornerback for his football team, and runs a 5:35 minute mile in cross country.

“[Cancer] is totally in the past — I’m just a normal kid now,” he said.

The young athlete and leukemia survivor stopped by the Dori Monson Show on Friday when he came to Seattle for the hospital’s annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and Half-Marathon. He plans to give back to the hospital that gave him his health by running the 5K, as well as by giving a speech about the impact that St. Jude has had on his life at the marathon and half-marathon.

“All of the doctors and nurses are amazing,” he said. “Also, it’s free, and that’s why all of these donations from everybody are very important and they really mean something.”

Owen first talked to the Dori Monson Show a little over a month ago when he was chosen to announce draft pick Marquise Blair for the Seahawks. He hails from Jonseborough, Arkansas, but roots for the Seahawks because his uncle, who lives in Seattle, tried out for the team back in the 1980s.

Now the Seahawks’ biggest Southern fan plans to follow Blair this coming season.

“I feel some sort of special connection with him,” Owen said.

To learn more about what St. Jude does for other children like Owen, click here.


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