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Positive Light Reflects Off Metal Bone in Young Cancer Survivor | Community Spirit

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Positive Light Reflects Off Metal Bone in Young Cancer Survivor
Positive Light Reflects Off Metal Bone in Young Cancer Survivor

By Nicole Kowalewski • Executive Editor/Liberty High School


While Liberty High School sophomore Sean Gribbin may shine on stage and in front of the camera, that’s not the only place he’s being recognized for his extraordinary talents.

He comes across like a normal 15-year-old boy, but he can be compared to Harry Potter’s “The Boy Who Lived” persona.

Having grown up in Miami and then moved to Las Vegas when he was still young, Gribbin has lived anything but the typical life.

“Sean is just a small paragraph that has a lot of details,” close friend Michael Walter said. “There is so much about him that nobody knows.”

Like most teenage boys, Gribbin is into video games, computer surfing and hanging out with his friends, but what sets him apart from the rest is his unbelievable battle to overcome cancer.

In 2009, at the age of 12, Gribbin was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma. Ewing Sarcoma is as a malignant round-cell tumor where the genetic exchange between chromosomes 11 and 22 causes cells to become cancerous. There are roughly 300 reported cases each year in the United States, most commonly occurring among male teenagers between the ages of 9 and 21 years old.

“When the doctor said it was a tumor, my entire world came crashing down,” Gribbin said.

Gribbin had been in a motorcycle accident, and after weeks of feeling consistent pain in his leg, he decided to consult a doctor. The family thought it may have been something as simple as a sprain or a fractured bone. To their surprise, doctors said the aches were growing pains. He said they would decrease within a few weeks.

Once they noticed the pains hadn’t subsided, they contacted a different doctor for second opinion. It was at that point they found out about Gribbin’s serious condition.

Doctors believe the accident itself had no connection with the tumor, but was more of a coincidence in timing. Without the wreck, Gribbin wouldn’t have been prompted to visit the doctor and therefore wouldn’t have found out about his increasing cancerous tumor when he did. 

“I’m really lucky to even be here today,” Gribbin said.

With a story as heart-pounding as this, one would think Gribbin would prefer to keep it private, but that is yet another trait that makes him extraordinary. Through many hard trials, such as 15 sessions of two different kinds of chemotherapy treatments and 70 blood transfusions, Gribbin is now strong and healthy, but with unavoidable side effects.

He currently has a prosthesis acting as his right femur bone and continues to encounter occasional pains in his leg, but is able to endure some of it with the assistance of a walking cane to distribute the weight when he moves.

As for doctor visits, he’s not quite done with them just yet. He still has to undergo check-ups, blood work, scans and the most painful part: leg extensions. This involves extending the metal rod in his leg in order to fit his increasing height.

He is very approachable for people who want to know more about what happened and has no problem talking about it if it comes up in conversation. 

One of the most comfortable times he reveals his cancer is during his Biology I Honors class where his disease and treatment is sometimes relevant to what they are learning. 

“Sean is very open to talking about his cancer and he even uses it as a topic when it relates to what we are discussing in class, such as stem cell research," biology teacher Anu Pande said.

She says unlike most students his age, Gribbin is very mature and one of the most motivated students she has seen. 

As a result of treatment for the cancer, there are various activities that Gribbin is unable to participate in. One of the most life-altering is that he can’t perform simple tasks such as running, jumping or any sort of strenuous physical activity. Therefore, physical education is not an option in school.

“Even through his struggles, Sean stands strong and stays a positive young man,” Pande said.

Besides overcoming a tragedy most teenagers don’t have to deal with in a lifetime and upholding an exceptional status is school, Gribbin finds time to fulfill his one true passion in life: acting.

He was first introduced to the craft at a very young age when he watched a James Bond film. From that moment on, he knew that acting was his calling.

His mother, on the other hand, wasn’t as sure. She thought he was a little too young and that he should hold off until the time was right. Then, at 10 years old and after years of persistently begging, Gribbin’s mother agreed to jump on board.

Once she agreed, Gribbin says the process went at light speed. 

“I got headshots, auditions, commercials and I even got a lead role in a movie,” Gribbin said. “My dreams finally came true and I started acting.”

He is currently working through the Lewis and Beal Talent Agency and has starred in and auditioned for various commercials, television shows and movies including for popular names such as Modern Family and The Disney Channel. He enrolled in the Theatre I class at Liberty High School his freshman year, and after seeing the production of “Brigadoon,” he decided he wanted to go further with it. 

He has found the theatre environment to be a place where he can be himself while having the opportunity to meet friendly and interesting people.

“People are what make up theatre,” Gribbin said. “Without the people, there would be no theatre.”

Aside from the obvious reasons, Gribbin says theatre acting differs greatly from television acting. Though he still has a passion for both, he says he is more of a film actor than a theatre performer.  

For a mere boy of 15 years old, Gribbin has probably put more hours of dedication into his future and has triumphed over more obstacles than an average teenager could imagine, and he hopes and plans to go even further in the future. 

“The hard work and long hours he puts in now will definitely pay off for him in the future,” Walter said. 

Since he still has a ways to go, he has not put too much thought into his plans after high school, but he does have a few choices lined up. A career in acting is his obvious No. 1, but if that doesn’t take off, he would like to make a life out of computer programming or becoming an author.

“I know that whatever Sean decides to do with his life, he will do well at it,” Pande said.

He has goals to possibly attend MIT and create a computer program or video game. 

As of Feb. 24, 2012, Gribbin has been declared two years cancer-free, but is still forced to face the grueling aftermath of his condition.

Even through the battles he’s faced in his life, Gribbin is able to keep a positive personality and continue on each day with nothing standing in his way.


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