Nick Cannon praises ex's strength after five-month-old son Zen's death


Published: | Updated:

Nick Cannon has opened up about the pain of losing his five-month-old Zen from a brain tumor earlier this month, adding that he is 'in awe' of his ex Alyssa Scott, who is 'one of the strongest individuals I've known.'

Cannon, 41, had announced on December 7 that Zen had passed away after previously suffering from hydrocephalus, in which fluid builds up in the cavities of the brain and increases the size of the ventricles, putting pressure on the brain.

A tumor that developed quickly around Thanksgiving, and he and Scott, 28, spent one last day at the beach with the baby boy on December 5.

On the Today show this morning, Cannon spoke about seeing a therapist to cope, and how he has relied on his 'faith-based background' to 'pray for miracles' for 'the things that we can find comfort in.'

He also praised Scott, noting that the ordeal has been incredibly painful for him as a father — but as 'a mother who carried a beautiful child for nine months and nurtured and cared for him every single day through this process,' Scott has show particular strength.

Nick Cannon has opened up about the pain of losing his five-month-old Zen from a brain tumor earlier this month

'She is strong,' he said of his ex and Zen's mother, Alyssa Scott. 'She is definitely one of the strongest individuals I've known'

He said: 'I mean, as a father, it's painful, but for a mother who carried a beautiful child for nine months and nurtured and cared for him every single day through this process' 

'[Alyssa] is strong,' he said. 'She is definitely one of the strongest individuals I've known. I couldn't imagine — I mean, as a father, it's painful, but for a mother who carried a beautiful child for nine months and nurtured and cared for him every single day through this process. 

'There were so many medicines and so many trips to the hospital and the doctor, and also she's a mother of two so to watch her go through this.'

Cannon said he has turned to God for strength of his own. 

'I always say, you pray for miracles. And coming from a faith-based background, it's not for the miracle to do something that's unknown to us, but it's really for the things that we can find comfort in,' he said.

'So I asked for the miracle of strength to be able to be here today, and then I find that peace that surpasses all understanding. 

'I try to be a protector [and] to see [Alyssa] have to deal with this and see these photos each and every day, scrolling down her timeline... all we can do is kind of connect in prayer and I attempt to be there for her, but I watch her strength and I'm in awe, daily.' 

'I watch her strength and I'm in awe, daily,' he added of his ex

Cannon spoke about seeing a therapist to cope, and how he has relied on his 'faith-based background' to 'pray for miracles' for 'the things that we can find comfort in' 

The 41-year-old broke down in tears as he shared the news on his show last week 

'I'm taking it - as my therapist says - five minutes at a time, but I'm optimistic in finding the purpose through all of the pain,' he said today

Cannon, who has fathered seven children in total, discussed how he has been in therapy to cope with the loss. 

'I'm taking it — as my therapist says — five minutes at a time, but I'm optimistic in finding the purpose through all of the pain, so I'm attempting to smile, I'm attempting to be the high-frequency individual that I've set out to be, but along the way there's definitely some curves in the journey, so I'm taking it five minutes at a time,' he said.

'Honestly [there] was a lot of fear involved [in telling people about Zen's death]. I'm so used to being upbeat and outspoken and even vulnerable at times, where I'll talk about anything. 

'But this was probably the most delicate and the most precious thing I've ever had to talk about. And I didn't know how to talk about it, I never imagined having to be in this scenario, so as much as it was such an outpouring of love, there was a lot of fear, there was obviously some hurt.

'I wanted to be the protector as well for all of the rest of my family, Alyssa and [everyone], so I wanted... It's a very delicate thing, even when talking about this. And that's coming from a person who is used to talking to people each and every day live here on television. It's scary.' 

Zen passed away after a tumor quickly developed in his brain. He previously suffered from hydrocephalus, in which fluid builds up in the cavities of the brain

Saying goodbye: Zannon and Scott went to the beach with their child moments before he died

Cannon shared some photos of Zen in his last moments, including this one of him kissing Zen on his forehead shortly before he died on Sunday

He also discussed the 'shock' of the diagnosis, recalling that Zen 'was such a vibrant [boy] and really just calm, but had a light to him.

'We had no idea. I thought he maybe had a minor sinus problem?' he said of the infant's symptoms.

'And that had nothing to do with it. That was the surprise, we were taking him in to make sure he didn't have anything going on or even possibly, there were fears of COVID. Then to get this news was shocking to our entire family.  

Cannon had shared his tragic news last Tuesday, breaking down in tears as he told the audience of The Nick Cannon Show that his five-month-old baby boy had passed away after previously suffering from hydrocephalus. 

The actor said he took his son on a trip to the beach last Sunday and held Zen for the last time. He died soon after.

Zen was Nick's seventh child, delivered in June by former flame Alyssa. He was the fourth of Nick's children born within the past year and a half, with twins Zillion and Zion born in June, and his daughter, Powerful, born last December.

The seven children are with four different women, including his ex-wife Mariah Carey, ex-girlfriend Brittany Bell, his current partner Abby de la Rosa, and Scott, a model who appeared in one of Cannon's music videos.

Shortly after Zen's death, Scott shared her own tribute on Instagram, writing: 'The soreness I felt in my arm from holding you is slowly fading away. It’s a painful reminder that you are no longer here'

'It feels unbearable running without you now. I can’t,' she wrote. 'I will love you for eternity'

Shortly after Zen's death, Scott shared her own tribute on Instagram.  

'Oh my sweet Zen. The soreness I felt in my arm from holding you is slowly fading away. It’s a painful reminder that you are no longer here,' she wrote.

'I caught myself looking in the backseat as I was driving only to see the mirror no longer reflecting your perfect face back at me. When I close a door too loudly I hold my breath and wince knowing a soft cry will shortly follow. It doesn’t come. The silence is deafening.

'These last 5 months we have been in this race together. We would hand the baton off to each other. You kept me going,' she continued. 'It would be the middle of the night and you would smile at me. A surge of energy would fill my body and pure joy would radiate from within me. We were a team, both determined to see it through. 

'It feels unbearable running without you now. I can’t. And in this moment I feel myself being carried. By your sister.. By God. By complete strangers encouraging me to not give up . It has been an honor and privilege being your mommy,' she concluded. 'I will love you for eternity. 6•23•21 - 12•5•21.' 

Cannon explained on his show that the issues with Zen began when he was about two months old, when he and Zen's mother noticed that his head seemed large 

The baby had to have brain surgery and a shunt put in place to drain the fluid. From there, Cannon said, things just got worse 

Cannon recounted how he held his son for the last time, saying: 'You can't heal until you feel' 

Cannon explained on his show that the issues with Zen began when he was about two months old, when he and Zen's mother noticed that his head seemed large. They thought he had developed a sinus issue.

'I always noticed he had a cough and so I wanted to check it out,' Cannon said. 'He had this interesting breathing and by the time he was two months, he had this nice sized head too — a Cannon head.

'We didn't think anything of it. But I wanted to take him to the doctor for his sinus and breathing. We thought it would be routine.'

But instead, the baby had to have brain surgery and a shunt put in place to drain the fluid. From there, Cannon said, things just got worse.

'This weekend, I made a valid effort to spend the most quality time with Zen,' Cannon told his audience.

'We woke up on Sunday and went to the ocean with him and Alyssa, and then I had to fly back to New York for the show. I got a call on my way to the airport to head back to Zen.'

Cannon said he returned to work so soon after the tragedy because working in show business is all he knows

'We had a short time with a true angel,' he said. 'My heart is shattered' 

Hydrocephalus is an abnormal buildup of fluid in the cavities deep within the brain. This excess fluid causes the ventricles to widen, putting pressure on the brain’s tissues.

As the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pushes on the brain it can prevent it from functioning properly and cause brain damage and even death.

It can affect anyone, but is most common in infants and older adults, according to the National Institutes of Health, as children could be born with the disorder or acquire it from injury, stroke or tumors.

Congenital hydrocephalus affects one or two of every 1,000 babies born in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. 

Symptoms in infants may include:

  • a rapid increase in head size
  • a bulge on the soft spot of the head
  • vomiting
  • problems sucking or feeding
  • sleepiness
  • irritability
  • eyes that are fixed downward or are not able to turn outward
  • seizures

Cannon recounted how he held his son for the last time, saying: 'You can't heal until you feel.'

Hydrocephalus affects one or two of every 1,000 babies born in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Approximately 50 percent of the affected patients die before three years of age and about 80 percent die before reaching adulthood

Cannon said he returned to work so soon after the tragedy because working in show business is all he knows.

'I prayed for God's strength, and that's why I'm here today, because I know he puts the most and heaviest weight on the shoulders of his strongest shoulders,' Cannon said.

He dubbed the episode of his show a 'celebration of life' for Zen.

An unnamed source also told Entertainment Tonight that the talk show was originally supposed to have two tapings that day, including a live show.

'Those were both unexpectedly canceled on Sunday,' the source said, 'and a pre-taped episode was aired on Monday instead.' 

He has given several more interviews to talk about the loss this week, including one to People, telling the magazine his heart is 'shattered' over the terrible loss. 

'We had a short time with a true angel,' he said. 'My heart is shattered. I wish I could have done more, spent more time with him, taken more pictures. I wish I could have hugged him longer.'

In August, Cannon was told the child was diagnosed with a high-grade glioma, a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer. High-Grade Gliomas are tumors found in the brain and spinal cord. 

Doctors did what they could, but the tumors kept growing. He and Scott discussed how they could give him the best life. They felt at the time he had months or even years to live. 

Scott posted this photo of herself, holding Zen, as she and her children dressed up for Halloween back in October

They discussed chemotherapy, but decided not to pursue it.

'We were having quality-of-life conversations,' he said. 'We could have had that existence where he would've had to live in the hospital, hooked up to machines, for the rest of the time. From someone who's had to deal with chemotherapy before [he had Lupus], I know that pain. To see that happen to a 2-month-old, I didn't want that. I didn't want him to suffer.'

They tried to make him happy.

'We focused on Disneyland, our favorite place,' explained Cannon. 'Every month we would celebrate his birthday, just really seeing it as a victory every time he had a milestone that he was still here with us.'

He got worse over Thanksgiving weekend.

'You could tell he was struggling,' Cannon said. 'He was gasping for air. We'd wake up, and he wouldn't be breathing for maybe five to 10 seconds at a time, and then he'd let out a huge gasp. You could see it frightened him. It was the scariest thing I've ever experienced.' 

Zen died on December 5. He was there at the time of the passing as was Alyssa.

'I see it as a blessing that I got to be there,' said Cannon. 'Alyssa says, "I think he was just waiting for you."'

Scott shared a note to People: 'It was a privilege being Zen's mommy. It's so beautiful and encouraging to see even complete strangers being touched and moved by Zen's light. Zen's spirit and light will shine bright forever.' 

Nick Cannon, left, had twins, Monroe and Moroccan Cannon, with his ex-wife Mariah Carey, right, on April 30, 2011

Cannon also has a son, Golden Sagon, in the karate outfit, and a daughter, Powerful Queen, with his ex-girlfriend Brittany Bell, left

Cannon's other children include twins Monroe and Moroccan with his ex-wife Mariah Carey, who gave birth to them on their third wedding anniversary on April 30, 2011. 

Cannon also has a son, Golden Sagon, with Brittany Bell who was born on February 21, 2017. The pair welcomed a daughter, Powerful Queen, last December.

Then came twins Zion Mixolydian Cannon and Zillion Heir with his current partner Abby de la Rosa on June 14, nine days before Zen was born on June 23.

Cannon has said he does not subscribe to the idea of monogamy.

In an interview with The Breakfast Club back in August, he called the idea a 'Eurocentric concept,' claiming it's really 'just to classify property when you think about it.' 

'I have no ownership over this person,' he said. 'It's about what exchange we can create together. So I've never really subscribed to that mentality.

'I don't want ownership over anybody. I don't have ownership over any of the mothers. We created a beautiful entity. 

Cannon has twins Zion Mixolydian and Zillion Heir with his current girlfriend, DJ Abby de la Rosa, right

His seventh son, Zen Scott, left, was born to model Alyssa Scott, right, on June 23, 2021. He died on December 5 at just five months old

'Those women, all women, are the ones that open themselves up and say "I would like to allow this man into my world. And I will birth this child."

'It ain't my decision,' he said. 'I'm following suit. Every women that I deal with or dealt with, they know how I feel.'

Cannon has also previously talked about his refusal to wear condoms in a 2017 interview with Howard Stern, which resurfaced this past year as he started to have a slew of children.

He said at the time: 'I might die in the morning, so why wear condoms?'

But the actor/singer changed his tune in October, announced that he was going to try to be celibate until at least 2022.

'I'm going to try to be celibate until 2022,' he said on his talk show, according to Parade. 'We're going to see if we can make it to the end of the year.

'Somebody said, "You should go longer. Take your time,"' he recounted. 'We'll get to the end of the year, then we'll talk about 2022.'