Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 24, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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52 SEPT. 24, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED WHERE HAVE YOU GONE? BY TODD D. BURLAGE A poster hangs on the wall just in- side the main entrance of Memo- rial Hospital in downtown South Bend that features a local teenage amputee clearing a high jump bar on his way to a silver medal at the 2016 Paralympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The caption below its photo reads, "CHALLENGE: If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you." Such is the life and story of Sam Grewe — one day a healthy and sturdy multi-sport athlete at Northridge Mid- dle School in Middlebury, Ind., a few miles east of Notre Dame, the next day a frightened seventh-grader facing an impossible reality when he was diag- nosed with a rare bone cancer called osteosarcoma. "One x-ray showed a fist-size tumor against my femur, it was eating away at my femur. You think your life is over," Grewe recalled of the unforget- table image. "You're a healthy athlete and then everything is cut short, just like that." About the toughest decision most seventh-graders face is whether or not to ask that special someone to the school dance. For Grewe in 2012, the choice he faced was whether to fight the cancer in his right leg to try to save the limb, or have it amputated and start a new life with a prosthetic. Surprisingly, and seemingly contra- dictorily, a passion for sports made this scary decision for Grewe a relatively easy one. Grewe — now a Notre Dame sopho- more, a cancer survivor, an inspiration to the entire Irish football family and so much more — chose amputation. "The artificial joints they would have to put in would be too fragile for me to ever return to sports," Grewe explained of his doctors' warning. "So I decided to go with the amputation just to provide even the slightest op- tion, the slightest possibility, of a return to athletics." In addition to the amputation sur- gery, Grewe underwent 21 chemother- apy treatments for 18 months through almost all of 2012 and most of 2013. He spent more than 200 days and nights inside Memorial Hospital, forever feeling weak, nauseous and scared. He admits now that without fam- ily, community and ultimately Notre Dame football, his difficult recovery would've bordered on impossible. "Pretty much bed-ridden," he said. "Super sick." INSPIRATIONAL INTERVENTION A chance meeting in the hospital between Grewe and a Notre Dame football administrator named Ernest Jones sparked a relationship that be- came the roots to one of the most touching stories in Irish football his- tory. As the director of player devel- opment and engagement at Notre Dame, Jones' community involve- ment frequently brought him to Memorial Hospital where his meet- ing with Grewe during a chemo treatment gave the football coach a chance to lift the spirits of an ailing child and inspire a football team at the same time. Just two days before his amputa- tion surgery at Indianapolis Riley Hospital in early 2012, Grewe was invited by the Notre Dame football family to become an honorary mem- ber of the Fighting Irish operation that season. The relationship became symbiotic in that it helped a seventh-grader beat cancer and a football team beat all 12 opponents that regular season on its way to the national champion- ship game. "I can't imagine where I'd be now if that hadn't happened," Grewe said of an open invitation that included full team access that magical season. "It offered inspiration for the players. It offered motivation for me." A few weeks after the surgery, and while still adjusting to his new prosthetic, Grewe returned to Notre Dame and was greeted inside the football auditorium with an emo- tional standing ovation from all the Irish players, each wearing "Grewe Crew" t-shirts and wristbands with the slogan "We Play For Sam" — a united effort to show support, re- spect and appreciation for this coura- geous young man. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly remembers that day well. "He did more good for our play- Grewe, second from left, was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer called osteosarcoma when he was in seventh grade. While undergoing treatment, he became an honorary member of the Irish football team during the 2012 campaign, when the Irish went 12-0 to earn a spot in the BCS National Championship Game. PHOTO COURTESY GREWE FAMILY Sam Grewe The cancer survivor provides memories, inspiration and appreciation

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