VANCOUVER, Wash. — Mom Melissa Eich has many ways to describe her son Owen.
“I would say that you are silly, and adventurous, and really smart,” she said, smiling at him.
He’s energetic and creative, but the 4-year-old is tough too. Last year, just after his third birthday, things got a little complicated.
“It happened pretty quickly, within a period of two months,” Melissa said.
Owen started having troubling symptoms that quickly progressed. After virtual doctor visits and some in-person appointments, it was finally a trip to the emergency room which revealed a diagnosis of rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer in soft or connective tissue, or bone.
Melissa said Owen has stayed incredibly positive throughout his journey, and it shows on their TikTok page @melguyveringmom, started by mom to document the good moments and other summer adventures during COVID.
“There was a video that I made of us finally having to shave his hair off, and it went viral,” said Melissa.
Owen and his dad Matt each shaved their heads in the clip. It has more than 1.5 million views. The account now has more than 64,000 followers and 2.3 million likes. Make no mistake, it’s not about fame. Melissa hopes other families dealing with the same struggle are encouraged.
“You don't want to see yourself in it. But once you're in it, you're grateful for the people that you meet,” said Eich of the supportive community she’s found since Owen’s diagnosis.
Through TikTok, she met another mom working with the organization Resilience Gives. Since 2016, they’ve donated over $145,000 to pediatric cancer research and 12,000 pairs of…socks. It’s part of a campaign called Socks With Stories: Paying it Forward Initiative.
“You don't realize how much of a comfort that is until it's there,” Melissa said. “They're like the perfect thickness and they have great grips on the bottom of them to keep you from slipping around at the hospital.”
In November, Owen was one of 40 pediatric cancer patients across the country to donate a total of more than 4,000 socks to their local children’s hospital. Owen gave 82 pairs of socks and six gowns to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland.
As for Owen’s cancer fight, he had clear scans in August and again just before Thanksgiving, a promising step. Melissa wants other who are going down this road to look for support and reach out.
“It's kind of a learn as you go experience,” she said. “So being able to have other people who have experienced it. Even if it's the same cancer, no case is the same, but having their stories is really helpful.”