Grant Crim's Story | Reasons to Relay
I had been waking up in my crib, screaming inconsolably every day. For months, my mother took me from doctor to doctor to doctor in search of an answer. I was suspected of having everything from migraine, to infant glaucoma, to behavior problems. Knowing something was wrong, my mother demanded they do an MRI where it was discovered that I in fact, had a brain tumor.
After enduring a failed attempt at resection, I was started on chemotherapy and had my case presented to every brain tumor trial in the country, no one was willing to take on a child under the age of two…that is until a pioneering surgeon and his tumor board in New York City agreed to try.
I celebrated my 2nd birthday the day before my second brain surgery, but this time it was a success. I remained stable for a year, but six months later the tumor had doubled in size. I endured several failed central line surgeries and was pulled out of preschool to go back into chemotherapy treatment.
As a kindergartner, my parents were asked by my teacher, “is he actually capable of learning any further?” and she was resistant to advancing me to the private school’s 1st grade. Treatments left me with deficits that were addressed in a new Cognitive Remediation trial at OHSU. This enabled me to relearn the things I was struggling with, and find ways to overcome obstacles.
I began to excel in school, and found that friends often came to me for advice, but I also didn’t really “fit in” with the rest of the students. With a life threatening illness, comes a level of maturity that is a result of both missing out on “normal” childhood experiences, and of having to face things (including your own mortality) that most adults will never face until they have lived long, full lives.
At twelve years old, I began to start having trouble seeing and after several attempts at glasses, a visual field study raised an alarming question. An MRI confirmed that I was suffering a third recurrence and I was started on a new chemotherapy regimen.
The vision loss was caused by scarring as the tumor in my hypothalamus grew toward my optic nerve. My vision loss continued until I was left legally blind, with less than 20 degrees of visual field (and that less than 20 degrees is only 20/400) in just one eye. In the other eye, I am only able to count fingers close up. Accepting that I would never drive a car was probably the most difficult thing for me, and learning to walk with a mobility cane was an adjustment, but I overcame those obstacles too.
Unfortunately, all of the surgeries and treatment throughout my life have left me taking about 30 (EXTREMELY expensive) pills a day and 4-6 injections each day. I will be on these meds for the rest of my life unless science manages to find another way, and I am always hopeful that it will!
Despite all of these things, I studied hard, got involved with Drama, Speech & Debate, Key Club and National Honor Society, eventually graduating as Valedictorian of my class. I planned for my college education and dreamed of one day opening my own non-profit to help families whose children are seeking cancer treatment. I was passionate about doing something to make a difference and started volunteering.
Enter Relay For Life…
The amount of research it has required to get me where I am today is something I am acutely aware of. I also know that it is important to continue researching until we are not just saving lives, but also creating better treatment outcomes which will result in better long-term quality of life (especially for those who are diagnosed as children and young adults who will have long lives ahead of them). Ultimately I know that we also need research to prevent cancer in the first place.
My journey with the American Cancer Society began at my very first Relay For Life when I was just 2 years old and was newly diagnosed. Every year my family attended the Survivor Celebration and walked that opening lap. After I had completed chemotherapy treatment for my 2nd recurrence at 5 years old, we celebrated by having our first Relay team. It wasn’t until I was a teenager and was going through my 3rd recurrence that something clicked inside of me. I suddenly knew what I needed to do. I needed to get more involved in fighting back, not just for myself, but for everyone else who was facing this fight too.
My mother also jumped on board because of how grateful she was to the American Cancer Society for helping us with lodging during all of those trips to my Children’s Hospital 5 hours away. We both wanted to pay it forward, and Relay For Life gave us a way to do that in our own communities. Through my teenage years, I have served as Team Captain and in leadership roles at our community event level like Team Development, Mission & Advocacy, and Event Chair. I interned for 2 years under our Staff Partner and won many awards, including the Oregon Governor’s Award for Outstanding Youth Volunteer of the Year…but it wasn’t until I lost my best friend Natalie Hill to Osteosarcoma that I took my volunteering to the next level.
Suddenly the whole “I don’t just want to do it for me, I want to do it for everyone else fighting cancer” became a lot more real. Now I knew what it felt like to have to fight it myself, and what it felt like to lose someone I loved to it. It is a pain I don’t want any of you to endure, and I know the only way I can spare you that pain, is to keep fighting with all that I am, and all that I have, to defeat this disease.
I continue to volunteer for Relay For Life and have served as the Colleges Against Cancer Survivor & Caregiver Chair, as well as the Great West Division’s first Survivor & Caregiver Chair, and now the first West Region’s Survivor & Caregiver Lead. I am also a Great West Division and a Global Hero of Hope. I want to inspire others to get involved because whether that involvement means volunteering for an hour at your local event, or leading a Division, you CAN do something about cancer. Do it now. Don’t wait until it enters your life, or the life of someone you love.
I live by the motto #DoMore, because until we have a cure for all cancers, there is no such thing as doing too much. Someone, somewhere, was funding the research I needed, long before I ever knew I was sick. What you do today, could be saving someone’s life in the future. It’s up to all of us to do what we can!