Friday 24 January 2020

'He's practically my idol' - Irish boy battling cancer for second time meets Olympic legend Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt with Alex
Usain Bolt with Alex
Usain Bolt and Alex's family

Ann W Schmidt

A brave Irish boy battling stomach cancer had his dream come true when he met Olympic legend Usain Bolt.

Alex Corr (12) from Ballyclare, who has also fought a brain tumour, got to meet the Jamaican gold medallist and 100m and 200m world record holder through Make A Wish.

"It was just really cool," Alex said. "He's practically my idol."

The two met in London before Bolt ran in the Anniversary Olympic Games. Vivien, Alex's mother, said he wasn't even nervous. "They were so relaxed," she said. "They were both getting a lot out of it."

The two laughed and talked. Alex asked his hero about his favourite foods, his plans after retiring and what he most likes about being Usain Bolt.

But the youngster's favourite part of the meeting was their race.

"That was probably the funnest," Alex said.

When his parents contacted the charity, Alex knew he didn't want a holiday for his wish.

"I wanted to meet someone," he said. And it took him seconds to decide it should be Bolt.

Vivien tried to offer other opinions, but Alex said: "Nope. Usain Bolt."

He added: "I have seen him on TV and he is just the best. He's just achieved so much. He's just such a big person."

Alex has followed the sprinter's progress since he was four watching the Beijing Olympics.

His family went to London before the 2012 Olympics in the hope of seeing him race, but didn't get the chance.

Alex was first diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in March 2015 after several visits to his GP and A&E. He was suffering extreme headaches and nausea and had to miss school.

Vivien said: "I just thought there was something more to this."

The tumour was found on his pineal gland after a CT scan. He had surgery that Easter to remove it.

He went through 25 sessions of radiotherapy over five weeks after his operations and was so weak he had to use a wheelchair. He eventually had to learn how to walk again.

"He effectively beat his brain tumour," Vivien explained. "That was beaten last summer. Not that you're ever in the all-clear."

Alex then went to school for a full term and did well, but started having stomach pains in December.

Part of the treatment for his tumour had included a VP shunt. It is rare for a shunt to transmit cancer to another part of the body, but in January doctors found that cancer had spread to the boy's abdomen. The treatment was chemotherapy, which made Alex unable to walk again.

During that time the Jamaican superstar sent Alex a personal message through Make A Wish.

"You would not believe the kind of effect that has on a child," Vivien said. "It was enough to perk Alex up." By then the boy knew there was a possibility he could meet his hero over the summer and he was determined to be ready. "He absolutely couldn't wait to meet Usain," Vivien added. "He did not want to be in a wheelchair."

And by the time they did meet Alex had learned to walk and run again.

"Slowly but surely we've seen improvement," said Vivien. "He's a very positive child. He doesn't let a lot of things get him down."

Alex is now hoping to go back to school next month and to live a normal life.

"He just gets on with things," Vivien said. "He just has incredible resolve."

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