Middlebury teen loses leg, beats cancer & now back to playing sports

By: Jim Johnston, Gabby Gonzalez Email
By: Jim Johnston, Gabby Gonzalez Email

A Middlebury teen who faced a tough fight with cancer is getting back to normalcy.

Sam Grewe is just one of the guys while showing off his bowling skills at Strikes and Spares in Mishawaka Sunday.

His main worry while at the Notre Dame Football cancer awareness event is simply getting a strike.

The sound of his laughter accompanies the cheers from his friends.

“There’s no reason not to be positive,” Sam said. “Having a negative attitude is not going to take you anywhere.”

The healthy teen who approaches the bowling lane is not fazed by his prosthetic leg.

“I was just an average kid,” Sam said. “Then, I’m Sam Grewe. I got one leg.”

His cancer diagnosis eventually led to Sam losing his leg. He had to undergo chemotherapy treatments and spend many days in the hospital.

But through his struggles, he held on to a big part of his identity.

“I’m an athlete,” he said. “I have the motivation.”

Sam returned to sports in the winter as a member of the Northridge freshman basketball team. Currently, he's playing lacrosse for the Raiders.

He attributes his quick recovery, in part, to the support he got from the community. Sam was even adopted by the Notre Dame Football team.

“These guys are like brothers to me,” Sam said.

The brothers he found on the football field didn’t see him as a sick kid. Instead, they looked at him as a fellow athlete.

“For us, it was like ‘Oh my gosh, this is me at 13 years old,’” said Irish inside linebacker Joe Schmidt. “That was exactly what happened. We totally connected from the beginning.”

The friendships developed with team members went beyond Notre Dame Stadium and extended into Sam’s hospital room.

The time some of these players spent with Sam gave them a new perspective.

“Sam has taught me a lot about myself and really, really taking everything as a blessing,” said Irish cornerback Matthias Farley. “Then, just trying to build those relationships with people because you don't know how long you will have them."

Sam’s family has now grown from his mom, dad and sister to an entire football program.

Sunday's bowling event sponsored by the ND Football team's Uplifting Athletes chapter raises awareness for osteoscarcoma, the very cancer Sam beat. He's the reason the Irish chose that type of cancer to fight.

“It was really awesome to see that even after my battle they are still on my side. helping to raise awareness and look for a cure,” Sam said.

Our cameras were rolling as Sam scored two goals Saturday in a lacrosse game for Northridge during a day long event that also was raising awareness for the fight against childhood cancer.

“I wish I had 40 more of him because there is nobody that works as hard or has the attitude that Sam does,” said Northridge lacrosse coach Gregg Eash.

While Sam puts a lot into his game, it’s also his sense of humor that stands out to his coach.

“During a recent practice there was some physical activity that he got involved in,” Eash said. “His ankle on his prosthetic leg twisted on him and locked. He said 'Coach, coach I broke my ankle. I got it I will fix it' and rotated it back in place. That gives you a little bit about where his attitude is.”

Nowadays, there are more laughs in the Grewe family. Sam’s mom is back to focusing on the usual maternal worries.

“He has hopes of playing football this fall and I think that will be the true test of the whole mother nerve type of case that moms get,” Michelle Grewe said. “You are just so happy to see him out there.”

Sam said he has faith his mom will be able to deal with him joining the football team.

“I think she is probably pretty worried but she can handle it,” Sam said.

After all, Sam has beaten the odds before.

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