Over the weekend, while in Florida covering the Disney Dreamers Academy, I encountered a brilliant young man by the name of Maurice, who shared that the time he spent with the Disney Dreamers has been life-altering.
“This experience has been wonderful for me. Getting this wisdom from the likes of Steve Harvey and Princeton Parker, it has been great. It has made me, mentally, a better person. It has also given me more self-confidence,” he said.
The 15-year-old was one of 100 high school students who were selected to spend the weekend at Disney for a fun-filled weekend of inspiration and hands-on experience in their desired career fields. During our time together, Maurice shared that at age 11, he was diagnosed with brain cancer.
“I didn’t really understand what was going on when I was diagnosed. I had many worries. I even doubted that I would survive for a minute. I remember my family and I were at a press conference at the hospital, and I just broke down crying with my grandmothers, my auntie, my mom and my dad,” said the ninth-grade student, who has been 100 percent cancer free for three years.
Although he was initially startled by his diagnosis, the teen admits that by the time he began his first radiation treatment, he was extremely confident in his ability to beat cancer.
“When I really understood what was going on, it was around the time my treatment first started, after surgery. We were at St. Jude’s getting radiation treatment. That’s when I really understood what was going on, but by then, I had an abundance of confidence that I would get through it,” he said. “I noticed how most people struggled through their treatment, but it seemed like my treatment was pretty easy for me. I didn’t have complications. I didn’t need a feeding tube like a lot of the kids did. I was doing pretty well.”
The South Carolina resident has big dreams of becoming a pediatric neurosurgeon someday, and while most would assume that his illness is what influenced his desire to become a brain surgeon, Maurice actually set his sights on this path at just four years old—way before he was diagnosed at 11.
“Ever since I was four years old, I said that I wanted to be a person that prevented people from getting strokes. That’s exactly what I said. As I got older and my vocabulary grew, I finally recognized that what I wanted to be was a pediatric neurosurgeon. I’ve seen my mom work in the medical field from the age of twenty to now, and I was like, ‘I want to do something like my mom does.’ I just wanted to take it a notch higher.”
“A week or two before I first started having my first headache, I had an interview for a program at a middle school in my town. It’s called GetFit, and it’s for sciences and fitness. When they asked me ‘What is your goal in life?’ I told them that I wanted to be a pediatric neurosurgeon. A week later, I started having terrible headaches.”
As for how his experience as a former cancer patient will impact his career as a neurosurgeon, Maurice is confident that it will help him to connect with kids on a deeper level.
“From being a former cancer patient, I will know what kids are going through. I will know their feelings, and I will be able to say, ‘I’ve been here before. That was me once.’ I also believe that I will have more passion for it than most other neurosurgeons.”