Evan Anthony Gallant never lost his sense of humor or his keen concern for others, even 36 hours before death claimed him.

His oncologist, Dr. Richard Polkinghorn, recalls one of the last times he examined Gallant, who had a rare cancer and died early Thursday at age 21. When Polkinghorn checked Gallant’s right leg for swelling, “he looked up at everybody and said, ‘Well, if you’re such a great doctor, why don’t you examine both my legs?’ ”

The line had the intended effect – it made everyone in the room laugh, at a time when all they wanted to do was cry.

“It was not just courage he was demonstrating, but it allowed everyone to smile and laugh,” Polkinghorn said. “He was allowing the moment to be helpful for others.”

Evan Gallant was a seventh-grader and nearing his 13th birthday when doctors diagnosed him with myxopapillary ependymoma, a neurological cancer that usually attacks the brain and spine. Only one other person in the United States is known to have contracted the cancer outside the central nervous system.

Gallant had three major surgeries, one just a month before he tried out for the Portland High School varsity baseball team and made it. He played second base all through high school, and never missed a practice.

“He wanted it that badly,” his mother, Pattie Gallant, said Saturday. “Baseball is really what kept him focused and kept him from putting cancer out front, kept it on the back burner.”

Evan Gallant was determined not to be treated differently from other kids. He would talk about his cancer if someone asked, but he never brought the topic up himself. He was on chemotherapy his entire junior year of high school, and went through 36 rounds of radiation. But it never dampened his spirit, and he was the one who usually made his friends feel better about the whole situation.

“This young man, for the people who were around him he was a 1,000-watt light bulb in a 100-watt world,” said Rocco Frenzilli, a cousin of Gallant’s who has taught at Portland High School.

Gallant had his dark moments, usually after getting bad news about his condition, his mother said, but “he processed it for a couple of days, turned it around and decided he wasn’t going to dwell on it.”

“One of the things that carried him through was his faith,” she said. “He had very strong faith. He never asked why. He never thought he was singled out for bad things, and never, ever was a victim. That just wasn’t his thing.”

Every decision Gallant made toward the end of his life was about someone else, not himself, his physician said.

“He loved (his family) so much that I think he was just really being protective of them in a way that many of us just couldn’t even imagine doing,” Polkinghorn said.

Gallant had been getting hospice care at home, but recently told one of his nurses that he wanted to move to the Gosnell Hospice House in Scarborough because he didn’t want his little sister, 10-year-old Lily, to associate his death with home.

Pattie Gallant said her son was full of joy even three days before he died, thanking his nurses, hugging them and telling them that he loved them.

Frenzilli said his cousin liked to give people “unhugs” – long, lingering hugs where he would whisper “I love you” and “not release you until he felt it was time.”

“He always wanted to make sure that other people were OK when they came to see him and he wasn’t doing very well,” Frenzelli said.

Evan Gallant’s Twitter handle was @EvanAlmighty. His final tweet: “God heals.”

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

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Twitter: MeredithGoad