Canton teen beats brain cancer with determination and courage

CJ with his little brothers

CJ with his little brothers

Although he’s only a high school freshman, C.J. Evans seems much wiser and more mature than other boys his age. It could be because he’s been part of a Canton City School program for gifted students since he was in elementary school.

It could also be because C.J. has already faced a serious health crisis, following his diagnosis with a brain tumor at the age of 12.

It started in the fall of 2009 when C.J. began having partial complex seizures, which peaked at as many as seven a day. Each time, C.J. had no recollection they were even occurring.

Following a brain scan that revealed an abnormal mass, C.J. was referred to the Akron Children’s Hospital Showers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders. Pediatric neurosurgeon, the late Henry Bartkowski, MD, PhD, performed surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible.

“Finding out that I had brain cancer was a shock at first, then I went from being scared to mad,” said C.J. “I was determined to beat it and tried to be positive.”

The first glimpse of C.J.’s determination came when he was told that in order to go home after his surgery, he would have to be able to walk and go up and down stairs. Not only did C.J. walk, he sprinted up the hospital stairs.

For the next few months, C.J. underwent a combination of radiation and chemotherapy to destroy any cancer cells that remained. He completed treatment in February of 2010. His brain tumor is now completely gone.

Evans family

Evans family

For the next five years, he’ll have an MRI and bloodwork every 6 months to make sure the cancer stays in remission.

As a student in the Canton High Ability Program (CHAP), one of his primary concerns during his 18-week long treatment was keeping up with his schoolwork.

“It’s a big deal for CHAP kids to get behind,” said C.J.’s mom, Vanessa.

To help him make up missed assignments, his seventh grade teacher, Mr. Endress, stayed after school with C.J. for weeks, until he was caught up with his classmates. Now a freshman at Canton McKinley High School, C.J. is taking honors classes with sophomores.

He has already set his sights on becoming a pediatric hematologist-oncologist, so he can help children facing cancer and other serious illnesses.

Through a program in the Early College at Timken High School, he’ll be able to earn pre-med credits while still in high school.

Jeff Hord, MD, director of pediatric hematology-oncology, has also encouraged C.J’s interest in medicine, talking to him about the program at Northeast Ohio Medical University.

His mom has no doubt he’ll one day fulfill his dream.

“Once C.J. sets his mind on something, there’s no stopping him,” she said.

Publication: Showers Family Center Newsletter

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