Remembrance bridge

Oak Ridge Town Park recently installed a bench in the dog park in memory of Conner Crossan, who passed away in 2018 after losing his battle with osteosarcoma.
According to Cancer.org, osteosarcoma is the most common type of cancer that starts in the bones, and mostly occurs in children and young adults.
Casey Crossan, Conner’s mother, explained that Conner was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in April 2016.
“We went out of town for my dad’s 70th birthday,” Casey said, noting that since it was April, they had just started wearing shorts. “My sister was walking behind him and asked why his knee was swollen. There was a bump on the right side of his knee.”
After seeing that his knee was swollen, and because he was also having flu-like symptoms, Casey said they took Conner to urgent care on their way home.
“They took an x-ray and the doctor came back and said he made an appointment for us to see an oncologist at Brenner Children’s Hospital,” she said. “Initially, they didn’t think it was anything, but the ER x-ray technician knew right away that it was something serious and told Conner, ‘You’ll get through this.’”
Casey explained that they went to Brenner the next day, where medical staff did some bloodwork to see what type of cancer Conner had.
“He was already metastatic (cancer had spread), but he never complained about the pain,” she said.
From there, Casey explained that a biopsy was done. Because the blood vessels were wrapped around his tumor, they were told they were going to have to amputate Conner’s right leg.
“The plan was to do chemotherapy for six months and then do the amputation, followed by another round of chemo for six months,” she said. “My husband and I agreed that we weren’t going to tell him about the amputation at first.”
Casey said the first week they went in for Conner’s chemotherapy and a PET scan was done, they learned that Conner had more tumors.
“He had tumors in his right and left shoulders, right hip and in both of his lungs,” she said. “At that point, the head of oncology went outside with us and said, ‘We’re going to do everything that we can.’”
Casey explained that once the other tumors were found and it was obvious that Conner had terminal cancer, they decided they were not going to do the amputation.
“They wanted to keep him on systemic therapy so we had a fighting chance,” she said. “We were treated at Brenner actively for nine months. The first line of treatment was chemo three different times for nine months with one week at Brenner and one week at home for those nine months.”
Casey noted that they spent a year at the Cleveland Clinic with doctors that specialized in osteosarcoma, and they lived at the Ronald McDonald House. They also participated in a clinical trial for two months with Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Hospital.
Casey explained that throughout all of Conner’s treatments, no matter where they were, there were therapy dogs.
“He’s always been an animal lover, and the therapy dogs made his day,” she said, noting that Conner had two dogs, Guinness and Cally. “It was a good day when we saw dogs at the hospital.”
Casey added that even when Creature Teacher came to his school, he would always sign up to see her during the after-school program.
When Conner couldn’t be at school, Casey said his teachers got together to have Creature Teacher come to his house and they would always bring different animals.
“We adopted a chinchilla while he was sick and now me and him are buds,” she smiled.
Casey said they started a blog to keep people informed about Conner’s treatment and Casey and her husband, Bryan, both shaved their heads in September, four months after Conner was diagnosed, to raise money for St. Baldrick’s.
“That’s when I really started blogging,” she said.
Casey explained that the first chemotherapy treatments were rough; however, after getting anti-nausea medicine, Conner was able to live his life, and that’s what they did for the next two years.
Conner had a homebound teacher, having previously attended Oak Ridge Elementary School, and was able to do stuff with his friends when he felt good.
“We lived our life while he was sick,” she said.
Conner passed away on April 5, 2018, two years after his diagnosis.
Since Conner lost his battle to osteosarcoma, Casey has volunteered with the Ronald McDonald House and now is on the Patient Caregiver Advisory Board for Brenner Children’s Hospital. Casey also got involved with MIB Agents, an organization whose mission is to Make It Better for children with osteosarcoma, and with Ruff Love by adopting a dog Conner had picked out a year before he was diagnosed. She has also worked with Shopping4Hope, and more.
Casey noted that MIB Agents have direct patient support, give an end of life experience, and fund research.
“We (MIB Agents) are the only 501(c)3 that hosts an osteosarcoma conference,” she said.
Casey noted that friends also started a GoFundMe page to purchase a bench for the dog park at Oak Ridge Town Park in memory of Conner and his love for dogs.
Casey said her goal now is to raise as much awareness about osteosarcoma and childhood cancer.
“Osteosarcoma is rare and is the oldest form of bone cancer, but there haven’t been any new treatments in 40 years,” she said. “Since 1980, there have only been six drugs that have been approved for childhood cancer.”
While she is not in any way downplaying adults fighting cancer, Casey noted that since 1980, there have only been six drugs approved for childhood cancer, while there are about 12 drugs approved a year by the FDA for adult cancers. And, while there are, on average, 17 life years lost on an adult cancer patient, there are 71 life years lost on a pediatric or childhood cancer patient.
For more information about Conner’s battle, or to make a donation to help children fighting their battle with osteosarcoma, visit www.posthope.org/cars-trucks-trainsand-cancer, www.donorbox.org/conner or www.mibagents.org. The dog park at Oak Ridge Town Park is located at 6231 Lisa Drive, Oak Ridge.

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