A profile in courage

BARRE CAMPBELL, Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:19 PM ET

BLU GRANT is a fighter.

The kind of young man who can accomplish anything you say he can't.

He's doing things that nobody thought he could.

Tonight, he will be in the lineup for the Ottawa Titans when the Junior A lacrosse club plays the first game in franchise history in St. Catharines.

He went for a tryout a few weeks ago near his home in Cornwall, but didn't expect much to happen.

But Titans coach Peter Vipond, a legend in lacrosse circles, liked what he saw in Grant -- aggressiveness and pluck -- and offered him a spot on the team.

"I was very surprised," Grant admitted.

Those who know him weren't.

He's 20 and nearly lost his life to cancer. Four years ago, he learned the shocking news that a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma had been spreading through his young body. But through the pain and agony of chemotherapy, he refused to give in.

He believed in nothing but survival, despite the tragedies of watching kids his age and younger dying while he underwent treatments at CHEO.

'JUST DEALT WITH IT'

Blu and his family faced the toughest challenge of their lives head-on -- and they triumphed.

"He took it about as well as a kid his age could take it," said his mother, Maggie. ''He just dealt with it."

They learned about his condition after Blu, named by his father Reggie for a character in an old Western TV series, injured a neck muscle while playing hockey.

Physiotherapist Colin Jeeves alerted him about growths on his neck and under his arms, and suggested he get checked immediately.

"If it weren't for Colin, he probably wouldn't be here with us today," said Maggie.

Blu soon learned that cancer had been spreading through his body. It had reached a dangerous level, measured as the fourth stage (C).

The next stage would have meant certain death.

"I was scared," Blu said. "I didn't know if I was going to make it through. But once they told me it was the most treatable cancer, my shoulders just dropped."

He decided that no good would come from taking a step back from his regular activities. Blu returned to hockey just one month after his first chemotherapy treatment.

"I had stitches in my chest and I wasn't supposed to be out there," he said. "But I went out there for 15-second shifts, and I came right back because I was so weak and so drained."

The toughest part of the fight was hearing about some of the other kids at CHEO dying.

"I've seen a lot of kids at the hospital. I'd be a roommate with them,'' he said. ''Then the next month, you'd hear stories about them passing away. It hurts a lot. You get so close to people there."

He received tremendous support from his parents and five siblings -- sisters Rose and Kate; brothers Nigel, Judd and Thor -- who stuck by him through it all.

"They were there since Day 1," he said as his voice cracked with emotion.

Blu, who has regular check-ups to ensure the cancer hasn't returned, began playing lacrosse in high school and has worked his way onto a Junior A club.

Last year during the Junior B playoffs, he joined the Akwesasne Thunder as the only non-native member of the squad. He endured taunts from the crowd for being the only non-native player on the team, but those people knew nothing of his brave battle for his life.

'LIGHTNING BUG'

"There's a lightning bug under his butt, and he'll never say never to anything," said Maggie. "He has this huge heart. You can say 'No' to him so many times, but he'll never stop."

Blu says his biggest goal is to play pro in the National Lacrosse League.

And this remarkable young man -- a fighter in every sense of the work -- could do it.

barre.campbell@ott.sunpub.com


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