Run Has Special Meaning for Student Cancer Survivor

September 15, 2011

By Cooper Nelson

Grand Canyon University's Run to Fight Children's Cancer on Oct. 15 will include a cancer survivor from its student body.

Yousef Ramadan, a junior at GCU, has plenty of motivation to participate in the inaugural event, which will benefit the Children's Cancer Network.

"Too many people take everything for granted and don't realize that people need help," he says. "I was once that person, and I want to run so that I can give back."

"Q," as he is known on campus, was born in Portland, Ore., to a family with five brothers and sisters before moving to Idaho and then to Apache Junction.


Yousef "Q" Ramadan will participate in the GCU Run to Fight Children's Cancer, Oct. 15.

At the age of 3, he complained to his mother of feeling pain all over his body and was rushed to the hospital.

"The doctor at the first hospital told me I most likely had an ear infection, but my mom didn't think that was all," he says. "We went to another doctor, who diagnosed me with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

"Luckily, they caught it early. If my mom hadn't taken me to that other doctor, I might not be here today."

Less than a month after his diagnosis, Ramadan went into remission - although he still needed to undergo chemotherapy for three years.

The treatments were hard on a young boy.

"I lost all of my hair and gained a lot of weight," Ramadan says. "I would go to the doctor and get poked once a day. I had the most bone-marrow biopsies of anyone my age."

He was left with two scars on his chest from the catheter ports used to transfer blood. His time at the hospital helped fuel his dreams for his education and career.

"I loved the hospital and always said that I wanted to be a doctor," he says. "I wanted to do pediatric work with kids, because as a kid they saved my life."

However, things got even tougher for Ramadan.

When he was 8, his family relocated from Idaho to Apache Junction. His mother fell into drug abuse and the family moved constantly.

"All of my friends had no future," he says. "I lived such a crappy life and was trying to make something of myself. I always did well in school, no matter what my life was like outside of school."

In high school, he played football for four years, was on the student council and ran in the Relay for Life, an American Cancer Society event.

In 12th grade, Ramadan visited the cadaver lab on the GCU campus and became interested in attending the University. He wasn't sure if it would be possible.

"I thought there was no way I could go to a private school," he says. "I didn't have the money to pay for college."

Because of his financial need, he was awarded a scholarship and accepted to GCU. He admits that he began to take what he had for granted, missing class, passing on his studies and becoming caught up in things he says he shouldn't have been doing.

Ramadan decided this past summer that he needed to get back on track.

"I knew that I needed to bring myself back to GCU," he says. "This is where my life turned around."

A couple of his friends at the school reached out and offered help. He was able to get back his job in facilities and even was awarded a scholarship with the theatre program so that he could continue to attend school. He now lives in GCU's surrounding neighborhood.

"I found God again," he says. "It helped me to realize that I need to do something with my life. I was given a second chance surviving cancer.

"I have more drive coming back to GCU than I ever had before. I feel like I am finding my purpose here."

He says that surviving cancer and his other struggles has motivated him to run the 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) race. 

"People always helped me," he says, "and my giving back can help others to survive."

For more information on the Run to Fight Children's Cancer 5K and 10K races, which are open to runners and walkers of all ages and abilities, plus a special Cancer Survivors' Walk to be held the same day, go to

Cooper Nelson is a GCU junior majoring in communications.