Young Ohio State fan beats cancer after calling it "Michigan"

(CBS News) BELLVILLE, Ohio -- For most seventh graders, life doesn’t get much harder than a history test. But for Grant Reed of Bellville, Ohio, it's his own current events that are so torturous.

"Honestly, I don't want to die," Grant says.

Grant Reed CBS News
He says that's one of the hardest parts, just having to think about that.

Last year, doctors at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus found a tumor in Grant's brain. They cut it out, but the surgery left him with stroke-like symptoms. Plus, he had to go through months of radiation and chemotherapy to try to stop the spread of the disease.

And yet, through it all, Grant has shown remarkable determination, which he credits, at least in part, to Ohio State football.

Grant was pretty much born a fan. His parents, Troy and Denise, were both in the OSU marching band and got engaged during halftime of the Michigan game. His cat is named Buckeye. His wardrobe flush with scarlet. The point is, almost nothing mattered more to Grant than Ohio State -- until he got sick, of course.

His parents say they'll never forget the first time his oncologist came in to see him.

Grant Reed was pretty much born an Ohio State fan. Reed Family
"Grant wasn’t exactly sure what we were talking about," Troy says. "And when she dropped the c-word in the room, he was like, 'Woah. No. No.'"

"I didn't like the word cancer," Grant says. So he decided not to use the word.

What did he decide to use instead?

"Michigan," Grant says.

That's right. The kid named his cancer Michigan and insisted everyone in his life refer to it as such.

"And I'm like, 'Why do you want to call it that?'" Troy says. "And he goes, 'Because Ohio State always beats Michigan.' That was something he could understand and make it into a competition. He was going to beat this disease."

It's now been more than a year since Grant issued that pronouncement. And if you look at his scans, Dr. Randal Olshefski at Nationwide Children's says you can see a change in where the tumor was before, compared to where it's not now.

"There's nothing there," Olshefski says. "There's a big space, but there's no tumor."

Denise and Troy Reed CBS News
Grant is trouncing Michigan. And although much of the credit has to go to science, his parents say don't discount the semantics.

"You have to do something to make it a disease you can fight," Troy says. "And for Grant, that was naming it Michigan."

This weekend, Ohio State and Michigan will be battling like their lives depend on it. But in this house, where the metaphor became all too real, the Reed family will be watching with a sobering insight: that it's just a game.

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  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.