Strength of a lion

Strength of a lion

How 16-year-old Calabar boy Cornel Grant battled cancer

Senior staff reporter

Sunday, February 02, 2020

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CORNEL Grant can be described as a quiet and caring youngster with colossal strength and courage.

It is therefore no surprise that his spirit embodies that of a lion, which is also part of the emblem that represents his high school, Calabar.

When the Jamaica Observer caught up with Grant, 16, he shared that two years ago he lived a normal life as any teenager, which involved an interest in sports, career aspirations, and common acts of mischief.

But life for Grant has not always been smooth sailing. At 14 he was diagnosed with a rare form of brain tumour, causing him to abandon his studies in order to get a fair chance to fight for his life.

Prior to his diagnosis, Grant shared that he enjoyed Spanish classes and had his mind set on becoming either a police officer or a soldier.

“From I was just coming into Calabar enuh, when I had Spanish class the teacher would see me talking and say, 'Cornel just gi mi the answer', and I would just give it and stop talking. He would say, 'Yuh good but just focus more on your work'. I got grades in Spanish – 80s, 90s,” he said while reminiscing on life before his bout with cancer. “I was in grade nine and ready to become the police, like my dad who passed away, or soldier. But they say God does everything for a reason.”

While in the ninth grade Grant was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of brain tumour, after receiving a series of misdiagnosis such as sinusitis and gastroenteritis.

This disruption turned his world upside down and caused Grant to come close to giving up many times.

“I was crying and said God...nothing could make me feel better. Even when they told me they were going into my brain...the doctor told me don't worry, we will take good care of you and I'd like to thank her for that – Dr Rowe from University Hospital of the West Indies. Sometimes I felt like giving up, but my mom told me to not give up, just fight. My faith increased as a result, and gave me the will and strength to fight through,” Grant said.

Now, after the two-year fight, much has changed. Grant has returned to Calabar to continue his studies and he no longer has aspirations to become a policeman or a soldier. Rather, he has his sights set on medicine.

“I want to help save lives and help people or children to make it through the things I went through. Going through chemotherapy and radiation – it was terrible. When I started radiation, I vomited a lot. It burnt some of my skin, my hair drop off and I couldn't bathe for a while. The tumour was aggressive so they had to treat it aggressive. But how they treated I was the most important person in the world. Even the doctor weh do mi surgery, every minute she come and say 'Cornel yuh no get up out a di bed yet and try walk?' She hold me up and help me walk from even the bathroom to the bed. She say every day you must get up and walk. She was the one who let me out [of the hospital] and say better you deh with your family and friends than in here a deteriorate. Everyday she check up on me and ask my mother how I am doing, how I am getting along. When she heard I went back to school, she was happy and said keep mi informed,” Grant said.

He added: “You had this nurse on ward 5 [at University Hospital of the West Indies], every minute she come take care of me, put away my phone safely, tidy me off. There was also a Cuban nurse who said I reminded her of her son when I was in intensive care. She say as long as I am here, she is my mommy up there. She take care of mi, feed mi, bathe mi. All this made me really realise what I want to do.”

Grant, who is in the process of resitting grade nine before matriculating to pursue his Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate courses, remains positive and even shares that his once selective eating habits have changed.

“I was once a picky eater, but I eat everything now. I had no idea what I was missing before this illness,” he mused.

Apart from pursuing the sciences with hopes of moving into medicine at the tertiary level, Grant also intends to play basketball. In addition, he enjoys watching TV, playing games, and reading.

But above all, his faith remains resolute and he holds dear to one philosophy. It is: “I believe, I receive, marvels, wonders, and extraordinary manifestations of the greatness of our God.”

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