At 26 years old, Christopher McCrae is learning to ride a bike again. This comes five years after completing treatment for a brain tumor called medulloblastoma.
“It was hard, going through radiation and chemotherapy and learning how to redo all of the simple muscle movements that most individuals can do without even thinking about it,” says McCrae. The Lanham, Md. resident was diagnosed with the fast-growing form of pediatric cancer at age 18.
“I was in my first semester of college that fall,” recalls McCrae.
He was enrolled at a university in North Carolina when he began to have problems with his motor skills. But like any college kid, he didn’t go to see a doctor right away. Instead, he waited until he was home and told his mom.
“When he came home for Thanksgiving, he said to me, ‘Ma, my handwriting is terrible,” recounts his mother, Brenda McCrae.
“I took him to the bank to open an account and his hand started shaking,” she says. “My heart went to the bottom of my feet because I instantly knew something was wrong.”
McCrae allowed her son to go back to campus on the condition that he see a doctor in the student health center right away. After an initial checkup, the family was urged to see a neurosurgeon.
A doctor’s visit right before the holidays would change their lives forever.
“That’s when a neurosurgeon walked in two days before Christmas and told us it was a tumor on his brain stem,” says his mother.
“At that time, 18 [years old], all of my friends are in school. Everybody is living life, but I’m in a different position, I’m in a different setting, in a different world than all of my friends around me,” he says. “It was difficult to come to terms with that.”
But come to terms with his own reality, and mortality, is exactly what he did. In addition to learning how to ride a bike again, McCrae is now back in college at Bowie State University and even driving to his classes. He spends his spare time delivering motivational speeches and sharing his story of cancer survival with local groups.
McCrae credits the love of his mother, sister and grandmother—three wonder women in his life—for making him feel like Superman—the super hero he had always looked up to as a kid—after having conquered the battle of his life.
“The biggest victory that I’ve had with this cancer battle is: I’ve been beating it for five years now. It’s gone,” he says. It’s not supposed to come back. I’m not allowing it to come back!”