Alumna awarded for inspiration

By: Jessica Ricks, Staff Writer

Grayson Gilbert was the 5th person ever to be diagnosed with a form of cancer known as pancreatoblastoma in 1995. His chances of survival were small, less than 2 percent. Since then, he’s been cancer free for 20 years, graduated from Towson and received the Children’s Hope Medal Of Honor.

At only five years old, Gilbert’s mother noticed he wasn’t acting like his normal, active self. After taking him to the hospital, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The disease is typically found in adults, but Gilbert was the first ever pediatric case. Over the next two years, he went through many rounds of chemotherapy and radiation and a several operations.

“I was five years old, so I was a pretty happy five-year-old kid,” Gilbert said. “Now that I’m older, I reflect and I can understand what I was up against and how surreal the situation was.”

The surgery, which reroutes the digestive system after the pancreas is removed, was very invasive and most diagnosed people do not survive. However, at such a young age Gilbert’s body grew up adapting to it, which may have contributed to why he survived.

After remission, Gilbert turned to charity work in order to raise money for children with cancer. He began by holding fashion shows, telethons, radiothons and worked with groups such as the Children’s Miracle Network.

Soon after, Gilbert started an organization called The Inspirational Medicine Foundation. By use of social media and donations of iPads to hospitals, his foundation helps the patients communicate with people who know their experience.

“The key idea is to give children in the hospital someone to talk to, whether it’s a patient who has been through something similar or a friend,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert was recognized for his work in inspiring cancer patients by the World Health Foundation. He was honored with a ceremony and awarded the Children’s Hope Medal of Honor at Grace Methodist Church in December.

“I give back because I understand what it’s like, and it makes me happy to help people realize that the things they’re going through don’t have to be so bad if they don’t look at it in a bad way,” Gilbert said. “There are so many people that do amazing things for the community, and to be recognized as one of them was a really cool acknowledgement.”

Gilbert is all about having a positive outlook on life. A big part of his recovery process is staying positive and having faith that the best will happen.

“Nothing is set in stone. They gave me a 2 percent chance of survival and coming up in October I’ll be 20 years cancer free,” Gilbert said. “That’s insane.”

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