By Lyle Carter
Several months ago the Belmont Baptist Church joined people from across Canada and as far away as Australia in prayer for a young Alberta boy. The Brookfield Baptist Church and others in this area joined in.
It was January 20, 2011 that Christian Crowell, then three, was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, an incurable cancer.
"For the next 20 months we made many trips from our home in Airdrie to the Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary," said Chris Crowell, the boy's father and a former minor and junior hockey player with Truro and Brookfield teams.
The sessions included chemo, radiation and three major surgeries, one of which involved the removeal of a large tumour from Christian's abdomen a year ago this month.
"(Christian's) now five and our little hero," said Megan, his mother and a native of Peace River, Alta. "He's an amazing example of the adversity children can overcome. I thank God that he is following us, holding us and showing us the way."
That adversity was tested when a cat scan two months ago revealed that the cancer had returned.
"We were told the latest tumour was inoperable," Chris said. "The tumour caused bowel obstruction but when Dr. Mary Brindle, a surgeon, opened Christian up on Aug. 23 she realized the tumour was not where it was thought to be. Although other surgeons did not agree she felt she had to try to remove the tumour. It was like a miracle, she got all the tumour."
With Christian improving daily, Megan praised God for the part he has played. She also said that she is thankful that so many people continue to pray for Christian.
"Christian is in remission," she said. "If a cat scan was done right now there would be nothing to measure. But science believes he still has microscopic disease, some cancer."
A website, Christians fight.blogspot.com, allows people to follow and pray for Christian.
"We want people to know what it feels like to live with a child with incurable cancer and to be led by Christ at the same time," Megan said. "We want to glorify God through Christian's miracle. Please continue to pray for Christian's continued healing. Pray that he'll remain in remission."
Chris Crowell's Truro connection began as a teenager when, after playing his early minor hockey in New Glasgow, he joined Dave Ritcey's AAA bantam Truro Kwik Kopy Bearcats in 1993-94. He graduated to the midget Bearcats the next season before spending five years as a free-wheeling junior B defenseman in Brookfield combined with some brief stints with the junior A Truro Bearcats.
"We were the Colchester Eagles the first year," he recalled. "Then we became the Brookfield Elks. I made a number of good friends playing out of Brookfield and I got to play three years for my uncle, Richard Mackenzie."
In 2001, Crowell journeyed to western Canada and, after working for a year, he enrolled at Concordia University College in Edmonton. While playing hockey for Concordia Thunder he met Megan (nee Lodoen).
"I was the athletic therapist for the team." Megan said. "Chris had been in a hockey fight and had cut his hand. I looked after him. In fact, I drove him to the hospital."
Megan said she watched Chris play every game.
"Chris was very gritty," she said. "He had more heart than all the rest of the players put together. His passion was noticeable and it has extended into the rest of his life."
The couple married in 2006 and besides Christian they have two other children, three-year-old Evelyn and two-year-old Ryan.
Crowell continues to play hockey.
"It's all for fun," Crowell said. "I play both church and school pickup hockey and I play in an adult recreational league."
Chris has taught school for five years in Alberta. He's presently on leave from A.E. Bowers Elementary School in Airdrie so he can spend more time with Christian.
In arranging this interview, the Crowells asked that I meet them at the Alberta Children's Hospital.
"It's so nice to come here and know that things are going good," Chris said. "We feel so welcome here. This hospital has helped Christian so much. I thank God."
Lyle Carter's sports column appears every Saturday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a story idea, contact him at 673-2857.