As a toddler, Grant Coursey was diagnosed with neuroblastoma — a cancer often found in young children.
A tumor was wrapped around his spinal cord and pushing against his lungs.
It took three surgeries — including one that lasted 10 hours — but in March of 2002 doctors declared Grant cancer-free.
At StoryCorps, Grant interviewed his mother, Jennifer, about that time.
Click here for the transcript.
Jennifer Coursey (JC): You were 16 months old. And we actually thought you had asthma because you were wheezing. The doctor said, 'Well, let's get a chest x-ray.' And Papa came over 'cause Papa's a doctor and his office was right across the way. And as a professional courtesy, the radiologist asked if we'd like to see the images right there and then. So, when they put the images up, things got real quiet in the room. And, uh, Papa gave us a hug. And you know how Papa walks really straight…
JC: ...up and down?
JC: He kinda looked like somebody'd kicked him in the gut as he was walking back to his office. And that scared me.
JC: And the first time they put you under anesthesia and they put the mask on your face, you really struggled. That's pretty awful for…
GC: A parent.
JC: A parent and a kid.
GC: But I remember as I got older I used to like it, actually.
JC: Yeah, so, you being super into firefighters, I said, 'This is just like the firefighters, you know? They put the clean air on so they can go in and save people.'
GC: I practically put it on myself the minute I walked in there!
JC: You did! You loved it. So, what else do you remember?
GC: I remember being scared a lot. I remember waiting in the waiting room made me, what's the word, apprehensive, kind of. That was brutal, always.
JC: I always kind of hoped that you didn't really remember much, but the scary stuff really stuck with you.
GC: Yeah. You know, I've got big scars all over my back from getting cut open. Whenever that kinda starts to twinge a little bit, like if I touch it wrong or something like that, it just kinda reminds me I'm lucky.
GC: You know, life is really good. And there's this saying that says if you've been close to death you understand life more. And sometimes I think of that and I think, you know, if this had never happened to me I never would have understood how much life means, kinda. You know? What if I had died, I'd never have this amazing life.
JC: That's right.
GC: And that's crazy to think about.
JC: It is crazy to think about. Well, Grant, I'm sure glad you got well.
JC: I sure love you. And I hope you're picking up that I'm so proud of you. I'm so proud of you.
GC: I pick that up a lot, honestly.
Mendocino Community Health Clinic