RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Time now for StoryCorps. Today we'll hear from 12-year-old Grant Coursey. When he was a toddler, Grant was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a cancer often found in young children. A tumor was wrapped around his spinal cord and was pushing against his lungs. It took three surgeries, but Grant is now cancer-free, and he recently sat down to interview his mother, Jennifer, at StoryCorps.
GRANT COURSEY: So Mom, when I was diagnosed with cancer, how old was I?
JENNIFER COURSEY: You were 16 months old. And we actually thought you had asthma, 'cause you were wheezing. The doctor said, well, let's get a chest x-ray. And Papa came over 'cause Papa's a doctor and he - his office was just 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 Papa gave us a hug. And you know how Papa walks really straight up and down?
COURSEY: He kind of looked like somebody had kicked him in the gut as he was walking back to his office, and that scared me.
COURSEY: 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...
COURSEY: A parent.
COURSEY: A parent and a kid.
COURSEY: But I remember as I got older I used to like it, actually.
COURSEY: 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.
COURSEY: I practically put it on myself...
COURSEY: You did.
COURSEY: ...the minute I walked in there.
COURSEY: You loved it. So what else do you remember?
COURSEY: I remember being scared, a lot. I remember waiting in the waiting room made me, what's the word, apprehensive, kind of. You know, that was brutal, always.
COURSEY: I always kind of hoped that you didn't really remember much, but the scary stuff really stuck with you.
COURSEY: Yeah. You know, I've got big scars all over my back from getting cut open. Whenever that kind of starts to twinge a little bit, like if I touch it wrong or something like that, and it just kind of reminds me I'm lucky.
COURSEY: 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.
COURSEY: That's right.
COURSEY: That's crazy to think about.
COURSEY: That is crazy to think about. Well, Grant, I'm sure glad you got well.
COURSEY: I sure love you. And I hope you're picking up that I'm so proud of you. I'm so proud of you.
COURSEY: I pick that up a lot, honestly.
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MONTAGNE: Jennifer Coursey with her 12-year-old son Grant at StoryCorps in Ukiah, California. Ten years ago this month, doctors declared Grant cancer-free. Their conversation will be archived along with all StoryCorps recordings at the Library of Congress. The podcast is at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.