Quin Harrell was the ultimate optimist — even at 19, even with cancer.
On Jan. 12 — almost eight years to the day after a diagnosis of osteosarcoma — Harrell passed away. Never again will Harrell do push ups with Fuji Fleetion. Never again will Harrell be a captain of a sports team with April Yarbrough.
But there will always be memories of Harrell’s determination to carry on a normal life despite the cards he was dealt — an inspiration to all.
Yarbrough met Harrell just after Harrell’s cancer diagnosis.
“We just kind of hit it off,” Yarbrough said. “I was coaching rec league ball. We both loved sports. We both liked Auburn.”
Cancer wouldn’t let Harrell play much, if any, during games, but the cancer treatments didn’t stop him.
“He would hit with us at practice,” Yarbrough said. “He would throw with us.”
Yarbrough said Harrell never showed fear of the cancer diagnosis and treatment that amputated his leg.
“Quinn never let it get him down,” Yarbrough said. “He never gave up. He was a fighter. He did more for his team mates than I ever could as a coach. Those boys rallied around him. Quin was our captain — our giant. The boys were always worried if he wasn’t there to help coach and cheer them on. We couldn’t function without him.”
Yarbrough said despite the age difference between her and Harrell — she was older — he was the counselor.
“He helped me more than he realized,” Yarbrough said. “He inspired me to do better. He had a spirit about him only God could instill in him.”
Yarbrough wasn’t the only one to have a great relationship with Harrell. Harrell frequented Fleetion’s grandmother’s house — just down the street from Harrell’s.
“I watched him grow up,” Fleetion said. “He was almost like a little brother to me. Everybody he came into contact with was inspired by him. He had cancer but cancer didn’t have him. Cancer was in his body but cancer was not Quin.”
The battles with cancer were frequent for Harrell. It seemed almost constant treatment and recurrence of cancer first in his leg, then his lungs — losing count of the chemotherapy treatments much less trips to the doctor. It was enough for anyone to lose hope but not for Harrell.
“He woke up everyday with a big smile,” Fleetion said. “He was fun to be around. We had our push up challenge. It was 15. Sometimes he would want to do 20. He was at UAB and called wanting to do the push ups.”
Harrell completed a goal this past year of graduating from Benjamin Russell High School.
Fleetion said Harrell inspired him for wanting to be normal but more importantly for not letting life's challenges get in the way.
“He made peace with God,” Fleetion said. “He wasn’t worried about cancer. He was a loving, caring young man. He didn’t want a hand out. He’s a young legend.”
Quin Harrell passed away Wednesday, Jan, 12 at UAB Hospital. A funeral service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Benjamin Russell High School auditorium. Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Armour’s Funeral Home.