One year after his 5-month-old son’s death, Nick Cannon is opening up about the harrowing time between Zen’s cancer diagnosis and passing on December 5, 2021.
In an episode of Paramount+’s The Checkup with Dr. David Agus, Cannon shared that “[Zen] was healthy, active, always smiling” in the earliest days of his life, but around 2 months old, Cannon and Zen’s mom, Alyssa Scott, noticed their son had an “interesting” way of breathing. The dad of 11 recalled, “We [also] noticed his head was a little larger, [but] all my kids have big heads. I was a big-headed baby.”
The pair decided to take Zen to see a doctor for what they thought might have been asthma, but during the appointment, the size of the infant’s head was a major concern. “That was the first sign that there was something occurring,” Cannon explained. “They did a lot of tests. They didn’t let him leave the hospital. And so you could imagine you think you’re taking your son in to get a checkup… I was thinking asthma, you know? And to know that he gets diagnosed with brain cancer… That was a shock.”
Zen was ultimately diagnosed with high-grade glioma, a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer, and the first intervention doctors took was to drain the fluid from the baby’s brain with a shunt. Cannon recalled, “That, to me, made logical sense. There was less pain on him and the procedure was quick. It was all about quality of life.”
He continued, “They start talking about chemo and I was like ‘OK, if we do this, does that extend his life? Is that less suffering?’ And they were like, ‘Not really.’ Especially where his tumor was placed. It was in the center of the brain. They couldn’t remove it. It was so deep.” Even if Cannon and Scott opted into chemo treatments for their son, doctors were projecting that he would only live until 3 or 4 years old.
Cannon, who underwent chemotherapy himself as a treatment for his lupus, explained that his personal experience with the medical intervention contributed to his decision to deny it for his son. “I knew what that did to me and I knew how as a full grown man, that process… My hair was falling out,” he said. “I wouldn’t even call it pain; it just sucked everything out of you. I couldn’t imagine that on a newborn and what that would do.”
Around Thanksgiving 2021, Cannon and Scott decided to “let God operate.” Cannon explained, “I wanted him to have the best existence he could possibly have. Why put him through more procedures?”
He continued, “We went to this space of wanting to enjoy him. The amazing thing… To the last weekend, he was the most vibrant, fun, crawling. His head was a little bit bigger than other kids, but other than that, there was nothing different about him.”
Recalling their last days with Zen, Cannon said, “We had some beautiful moments. We knew that the transition was coming. It happened a lot faster than we thought, but even that last weekend I kind of knew, ‘This is going to be the last weekend.’”
“Luckily, we kind of did everything from the sunrise and going to the beach and the sunset,” Cannon said of their final day together. “We said some beautiful prayers and as a family really came together in a very beautiful way. I’m grateful for (those moments), but it was definitely tough to see a child suffering and watching things shut down — it was pretty intense.”
Cannon’s outlook on the tragic situation is commendable: “His time here… He had an amazing life and an amazing existence.”
In November 2022, nearly one year after the passing of their firstborn, Cannon and Scott announced the pregnancy with their second child, describing it as a “MIRACLE & a BLESSING.” Baby Cannon No. 12 is set to arrive in 2023.
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