Full Circle

Posted on Aug 24, 2018

Fourteen-year-old Grant Cortes was preparing for school when his mother noticed a sizable bulge in his neck.


Alarmed, his parents rushed him to the nearest local hospital, which downplayed the case as mere infection. A week of antibiotics after, the mass continued to grow, prompting them to get a second opinion in another hospital in Marikina.


“I was tested for tuberculosis,” Grant said. “But it came out negative.”


Unconvinced, his parents took Grant to the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City. A month of rigorous tests finally yielded an accurate diagnosis—

T cell acute lymphocytic leukemia.


“I was expecting the worst but I was still shocked and afraid,” Grant says of his futile effort to stay calm and optimistic. His was an aggressive type of leukemia.  


“But Dr. Allan Racho said I was young, so there was a high chance of recovery.”


The treatment, though, entails chemotherapy sessions and a major lifestyle change. Grant had to be administered intravenous chemo drugs in the hospital weekly and oral medicines at home daily.


“I felt weak after every chemo session,” he shares.



At home, Grant had to have his own toilet seats and separate meals, making him feel virtually isolated and secluded. He quit playing badminton and dropped school altogether. 


“I was depressed. I felt like I was losing my friends because I was in the ospital all the time with my parents. It was a very tough time,” he recalls.


The chemo sessions lasted from 2012 to 2016. In the latter part, he suffered a seizure from a blood clot in his head, making his vision oversensitive to light. The clot was surgically removed but left a long scar near his right temple.



That ordeal would have been too much for anyone of lesser stuff than Grant’s, but he also had something others didn’t—the full support of his family and the entire staff of

St. Luke’s.


While Grant lost his high school friends, he gained new ones, especially the doctors and all the nurses who took care of him. They are friends even on Facebook.

“He [Grant] even had a crush on one nurse,” his uncle Johnmar shares.


Grant recalls that one incident after the operation.  Waking up high on anesthesia and seeing his crush taking care of him, Grant confessed. “I told her: ‘I love you’. I was very sweet to her. She just went along with it.”


But when the anaesthesia had worn off, Grant felt extremely embarrassed, especially when almost every doctor and nurse told him what had transpired.


“Dr. Racho, my head doctor, has kept on teasing me—even up to now,” Grant reveals. “He told the other resident doctors (about it), too. Now all the staff in the third floor knows me.”



Now 19 years old and a third-year tourism student, Grant beams whenever he remembers those past four years.  He has that scar on his head to remind him of his courage.


“I’m proud of it. Even my friends are impressed with… what I had to go through,” he says. 


On June 29, 2016—exactly four years from the day he discovered the lump in his neck—he was officially declared cancer-free. He even posted it on his Facebook wall the next day: ”Overcame an Illness: I beat Cancer!!”


Still, he visits St. Luke’s every month for regular checkups, even looking forward to it because it means seeing his old friends.


“Some people are uncomfortable going to hospitals, but not me.

St. Luke’s is my second home!”