Support of Baylor family boosts BU freshman during lymphoma battle
On September 10, Cole Harrison was a typical Baylor freshman, running the Line with thousands of his classmates and cheering on a Baylor football victory over SMU. (That’s him at center above, wearing a Baylor cap.)
On September 12, Cole Harrison was in a hospital room, hundreds of miles from home, learning that the cough his nurse examined earlier in the day was actually lymphoma.
The 48 hours in-between dramatically reshaped what should have been Cole’s freshman year. Over the last two months, he’s battled the disease with courage — and with the support of his Baylor family, both near and far.
Cole’s unexpected journey started with simple, cold-like symptoms. In September, a number of his friends had come down with coughs and various illnesses. When Cole noticed a cough developing, he wanted to nip it in the bud, so he visited the Baylor Health Center. During the examination, a nurse noticed a lump on Cole’s neck; that led to an emergency room visit for a CT scan. When he called his parents to say he was heading to the ER, they realized something was wrong; healthy young men don’t generally need CT scans for a cold.
While his parents in Memphis hurriedly worked to make plans to get to Waco, Cole’s still-new Baylor family stepped in. His roommate, Austin Hagen, called his own parents, Mike and Barb Hagen, who rushed from their home in Temple to Baylor Scott & White-Hillcrest Medical Center in Waco to be there for their son’s roommate. They sat alongside Cole when the doctor told him the results of the scan. As Cole left the room processing the news, Austin and numerous Baylor friends were in the waiting room to meet him. That night (and many times since), his hallmates came together to pray for Cole’s healing. His parents, Hunter and Leigh Harrison, arrived the next morning, overwhelmed with the news — but feeling grateful and optimistic for the support their son received in their absence.
“As my friends, who were waiting in the emergency room with me, came in, all of my anxieties went away,” Cole told The Baylor Lariat. “I had prayed for so long for God to bring me true friends, and in the moment when they came in, having sacrificed their entire night to come and be with me in the hospital, I knew that God’s provision is perfect.”
Cole certainly could not have anticipated what the next few months would look like when he arrived on campus a month earlier. Instead of spending the fall in Waco, he would be getting treatment back home in Memphis, at the world-renowned St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Cole withdrew from classes for the fall semester, but left with a determination to get well and return to Baylor as soon as possible.
From their home in Memphis, the Harrisons have felt Baylor’s support in many different ways. His Baylor roommate, Austin, was part of a group of friends who shaved their heads in solidarity. His former hallmates in South Russell have stayed in regular contact with their friend, and continue to pray for Cole’s healing and return to campus. (A sign of Cole’s South Russell pride and determination to get back quickly is the title of his blog: “Cole From South Russell“).
One other Baylor tie-in came through St. Jude, which happens to be Baylor Tri Delta’s philanthropy. Tri Delta makes annual fall break service trips to St. Jude, and they came prepared for Cole this year. This year’s Tri Delta team brought campus to him, presenting Cole with a basket of Baylor goodies and spending the day with him before returning back to campus.
Cole’s return to campus could come as soon as next semester; he hopes to find out in the days ahead whether or not that is possible. He’s eager to return to the community that has come to mean so much to him and his family.
“I’m just looking forward to living life again with the people I care the most about,” Cole says. “Getting to experience the ups and downs of life with such an incredible community was so incredible, and I can’t wait to be back and doing it again.”
Sic ’em, Cole Harrison!