By James Blankenship
When 12-year old Grant Reed was diagnosed with cancer in May 2012, his oncologist sent him home with the task of “naming” it. As his family sat around his bed playing a board game and thinking, Grant spoke up.
“I think I know what I want to call it,” Grant said. “Michigan. Because Ohio State is always going to beat Michigan, and that’s what I’m going to do with this.”
Last Friday, Grant received his final chemo treatment. And as he and his family left Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, they rang the victory bell.
Michigan was defeated.
It was a fitting end to a long, sometimes scary journey.
After Grant was diagnosed, he spent 16 and a half hours in surgery to remove the cancerous tumor in his brain. But after Grant woke up, he was informed that he had developed a rare condition known as posterior fossa syndrome as a result of the surgery. He could hardly move the left side of his body, he couldn’t speak, he couldn’t walk and his vision was blurred.
But after nearly 10 weeks, Grant walked and talked his way out the front doors of the hospital. It was a recovery that still hasn’t quite set in.
“The phrase they use is ‘scanxiety’ because every three months you have an MRI to see if the tumor is re-growing, so you always hold your breath through that,” Grant’s father, Troy, said. “And this last one still remained clear.”
“We’ve fought it for so long that it’s just like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe it’s over.”
One of Grant’s biggest supporters throughout his fight with cancer was his 9-year-old brother, Collin.
“He’s the most amazing little brother,” Troy said. “He’s constantly trying to inspire Grant, telling him that he’s tough and that they’re going to fight it together.”
But Grant and his family didn’t fight “Michigan” alone. He received thousands of emails and Facebook messages wishing him good luck and a quick recovery. Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer visited Grant while he was in the hospital.
“Buckeye nation seems like such a small family but it encompasses a whole bunch of people,” Troy said.
The Ohio State runs deep in Grant’s family. His parents, Troy and Denise, met as members of OSU’s famous marching band. A few years after they graduated, they won tickets to an Ohio State/Michigan game, where Ohio State easily won and Troy proposed.
The Reeds have been die-hard Ohio State fans since, well, forever.
“I doubt that anyone in our family, ever in their lives, has missed an Ohio State game, at least on TV,” Troy said.
The Ohio State-Michigan rivalry is one of the most passionate in all of sports. But when it came to Grant’s battle with cancer, Michigan fans cheered on their team’s defeat.
“We’ve had so many people on Facebook who say, ‘I’m a Michigan fan, but this one time I truly hope they lose,’” Troy said.
Even the Wolverines’ greatest fan — head football coach Brady Hoke — was glad to see “Michigan” lose.
“Grant’s story is inspirational and shows how special this great rivalry is to so many people, “ Hoke said. “Our team breaks each meeting with ‘Beat Ohio,’ and I think we can all agree this is one circumstance where it’s acceptable to say ‘Beat Michigan.’”
“Now, what we hope and pray for is that Grant never has to battle ‘Michigan’ again.”
The family’s hopes are high that he won’t. They’ve even set a timetable for Grant to return to form as a talented soccer goalie by the time he starts high school.
But for now, he’s focused on continuing his recovery and inspiring other kids in whatever their battles may be.
“I think kids can learn to never quit because whatever it is, they’ll get through it,” Grant said. “I’m proof of that.”
Update (July 23): Grant and his family have been invited to watch Ohio State take on Michigan when the Buckeyes travel to Ann Arbor. For more, check out the SI Kids blog!
Photos: (top) Grant Reed in his hospital room, (middle) Ohio State Buckeyes football coach Urban Meyer visits Grant Reed while Grant was in the hospital. (Courtesy Troy Reed)