On June 12, 2014, Justice Granger was diagnosed with Leukemia at two and a half years old. The next week would see him air-evacuated to the B.C. Children’s Hospital, treated for liver failure and other complications and sent to surgery to install a port under his skin to ease chemotherapy treatments.
During surgery, Justice reacted to the anaesthetic and woke up five days later with brain damage.
The next three years would be a roller coaster ride for Justice and his parents, but on Aug. 24, 2017, Justice, now 5, finished his last round of chemo at the 100 Mile Hospital. On Sept. 5, he’ll start his first day of school at 100 Mile Elementary School.
During the time that Justice lay unconscious at B.C. Children’s, his parents, Coreen and Jeremy, were told that if he did survive, to expect lifelong brain damage.
“Through that time we were thinking, it was touch or go whether or not he would make it,” says Coreen. “They were saying he could never walk about or be able to talk or he could have difficulty with balance or concentration, memory.”
When he woke up, he wasn’t able to talk or focus on his parents, and while he could move his arms and legs there was no purpose to it, Coreen says.
“We were gearing up, maybe this could be a lifelong thing.”
About 10 days after his surgery, five days after he woke up, Justice said his first word, “water.”
From there, after his initial chemo treatments, the family moved to Ronald MacDonald House and Justice attended physiotherapy sessions at Sunny Hill, a rehabilitation centre.
“About a month and a half after his surgery he could stand but he wasn’t able to walk,” says Coreen.
“We got set up with a wonderful physiotherapist there and we did maybe three sessions with her and then, all of a sudden, completely out of the blue, we were at Ronald MacDonald House, he decides to get up and he started walking. From there he just got stronger and stronger.”
Coreen says at Justice’s next appointment with the physiotherapist, they were told there was not much left the physiotherapist could help with.
“It was just amazing and he has made an absolute, complete recovery from the surgery. There is absolutely no effect of the brain damage whatsoever.”
Throughout the time in between, the family has returned to BC Children’s for regular check ups.
“If a new doctor comes in the little room with his gigantic file, it never fails. They all say wow. This is not the child with this binder,” says Coreen. “We really, truly believe it was a miracle that he was healed from that.”
With his last chemo appointment out of the way, Justice is clear to go to school.
“It’s been an amazing and heart-wrenching process but it’s been so good. Fay [Martens], the nurse, has been absolutely amazing through the whole time,” says Coreen. “She’s just so special. Every time we go there she’s got balloons or presents for both Justice and Serenity, our daughter.”
The last day of chemo, the group held a mini party with cake.
Coreen says Justice is the happiest, go lucky kid.
“He is so excited, especially through the whole cancer. Anytime he goes for blood work or treatment he is so excited to show everybody how brave he is and anytime they have to poke him, he’s like ‘No, that’s okay, that didn’t hurt. No problem,’” she says.
“He’s just such a happy, wonderful, loving caring child and I think going through this sickness has really helped him to grow into that. He’s seen so many sick children and he has such a heart for other kids and to make people feel good and it’s pretty neat to see.”
Coreen says it’s been emotional.
“You don’t expect for your child to get diagnosed with cancer. That’s the absolute worst case scenario,” she says. “We are Christian ourselves and so we really believe that God has given us support and comfort through the whole thing, because we’ve been able to endure some pretty nasty, nasty things and have felt peace through it all.”
She says the hardest part now is seeing other children who haven’t been as fortunate as Justice or who have passed away.
“It’s just terrible and heart-wrenching because you were there. We were almost facing that ourselves. The emotion that comes with that — it’s so difficult — but if we can be a support to anyone else that is going through this then I think it is our duty to be there and to help in any way we can.”
Seeing Justice head to school after a year of homeschooling is “wonderful,” she says.
“He’s so vibrant and full of life and not that long ago we weren’t even sure he was going to make it.”
The experience has made Coreen more intentional about the time she spends with her children.
“I really see the importance of making every moment count,” she says. “We make sure we do special, special things for the kids and take that extra time to tell them how much we love them and how special they are … I want to make sure that I’m intentional and their childhood is enriching and as full of good opportunities as possible.”
Justice will head to B.C. Children’s regularly for checkups until he is 18 but for now, he’s able to do anything any other 5-year-old would.
Coreen extends a thank you to the community of 100 Mile House for their support since Justice’s diagnosis.
“It was unreal. You just feel so special to be in such a wonderful community when tragedy strikes.”