What do you want to be when you grow up? Undecided.
Sam Grewe, 14, is a no nonsense kind of kid. He’s the first to say he doesn't like his cancer and he doesn't like his cancer treatments. Period. But when the motivated athlete shoots, he scores.
The straight A student from Middlebury was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in December 2011 at Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis. When the family discovered Memorial Children's Hospital partners with Riley, they knew Memorial was the best choice for quality care nearby.
Sam's cancer affected his femur and hollowed out the bone. He underwent an innovative procedure called Rotationplasty, and now his foot is positioned backwards and reattached to the rest of his leg. His ankle now functions like a knee and he has a prosthetic to wear so he can walk and play sports.
Sam's paid his dues and spent more time than most at the hospital since his diagnosis – 75 to 80 nights in fact. He's on round 15 of 21 intense chemo treatments, each lasting five to 10 days. It takes its toll emotionally, mentally, and physically, but Sam lives by his nickname, "SamStrong."
"Cancer has thrown so much at me over the last year, but I'm still standing," Sam says. "With the support of others and because my will to live is bigger than this disease, I keep going. No matter what it takes."
Sam is a stellar athlete and happiest when he can be at school and participate in sports. He was pumped when he caught the attention of Notre Dame Head Football Coach Brian Kelly. Inspired by Sam's story, Coach Kelly adopted him as part of the team's Believe Like a Champion program.
An official "adoption" ceremony was held April 2, 2012, two days before Sam's surgery, in which the whole team wore "Grewe Crew" T-shirts in Sam's honor, stood up to speak to him, and gave him an autographed football, his own jersey and helmet.
That same night Mark Herzlich, linebacker for the New York Giants, Skyped with Sam. Herzlich was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer in May 2009, and was determined to rid his body of the disease. By September 2009 he was cancer free, and since then encourages others, like Sam, to fight to win against cancer.
Sam's battle isn't over, but his last scans were clear, and he is getting a glimpse at an all-star, cancer-free future.
What do you want to be when you grow up? A babysitter and nurse.
When you look at 6-year-old Tatum Gumpf, all you want to do is squeeze her rosy cheeks, which have managed to stay rosy despite chemotherapy.
Tatum was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in July 2010 and finished her treatment in September 2012. Her diagnosis came from Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis, which recommended she begin treatment at their partnered site, Memorial Children's Hospital.
Her mom, Deanna Gumpf, head Notre Dame girls' softball coach for 12 years, was happy to learn her daughter could receive excellent care right in her hometown.
"We love coming here because the staff make it fun and there is not one scary thing about this place," Deanna says. "That is a special trait about the Pediatric Oncology Clinic. Their fun-loving spirits make getting spinal taps and accessed for ports a little lighter experience."
When the diagnosis came, Tatum felt sad and scared. So did mom and dad.
"It's the worst news we could have gotten," Deanna says. "But it's amazing the response we've received from family, friends and the community."
Last school year Tatum only made it to school 30 days due to a fragile immune system. So Tatum's kindergarten teacher came up with a creative way to engage her with the class through daily Skype sessions.
Deanna said even strangers have rallied behind Tatum and given of themselves to help her cause.
To pay it forward, Deanna and her softball team created the Strike Out Cancer Weekend, in which they devote one game from the regular season to raise funds and awareness for Memorial Children's Hospital. To date the team, along with the University of Notre Dame, have raised more than $50,000 for the Pediatric Oncology Clinic at Memorial.
Tatum looks forward to playing shortstop one day and making coach mom proud. But she's always a champion in the eyes of her family, and not only for achieving remission after going to bat against leukemia.
Tatum's hero? Ask her who and watch a big smile come across her face as she says, "My big brother, Brady."
Saint Mary's student beats cancer.
Someday you might read the memoirs of Elizabeth Majewski. It's still early, but the 22-year-old English major has experienced a remarkable journey that began at age 2 when she was diagnosed with Wilms tumor, a type of kidney cancer in children. Now a senior at Saint Mary’s College, Elizabeth was in remission by age 3 and has remained cancer-free for the last 19 years.
Undergoing chemotherapy was challenging at first for Elizabeth and her family. In addition to the treatment’s side effects, Elizabeth and her parents had to travel each week to Indianapolis for her chemo. That all changed in 1992 when Memorial’s Pediatric Oncology Program began. Elizabeth was the first of many patients that would follow in her footsteps to receive breakthrough care for childhood cancer at Memorial.
"Having Memorial so close made a big difference in the lives of my parents and me," says Elizabeth. "To know they could count on such wonderful care for me close to home was a huge comfort to them."
Her memories of Memorial are recalled with welcome nostalgia, particularly toward the fun-loving nurses.
"Most of my nurses from when I was little are still in the pediatric oncology unit, so their dedication to such a wonderful program over the years really shows," she says.
An avid runner, Elizabeth remembers very little about her cancer experience, yet it has remained a significant part of her life. She stays connected through holiday parties, reunions, summer camps and most recently with her internship, where she encouraged kids facing cancer just like she did.
"Much of the internship work I did this past summer was directly related to my experiences as a cancer survivor," says Elizabeth. "I had the privilege of working with Camp Watcha- Wanna- Do, which I attended as a child. This camp provides a wonderful week of activities for children who have had or have cancer or a brain tumor. I love being connected to the same opportunities provided to me as a child."
Watching these children heroically face cancer is like a muse to the aspiring writer.
"I get motivated by their strong will and courage through this difficult journey," Elizabeth says. "Out of this darkness, there are many important friends and memories created. As a 19-year cancer survivor, I want to tell those struggling with the disease there are many great opportunities waiting for them in their futures. Motivation, courage and strength are traits they will gain from their struggles."
What do you want to be when you grow up? An English professor or book publisher.
What do you want to be when you grow up? A farmer.
Wearing blue jean overalls, there are few things more fun for the nearly 2-year-old Caleb Hoppe than pushing around his John Deere toy tractor. Caleb may have acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), but this toddler rules the roost along with his twin brother, Carsen.
The twins' parents, Seth and Andrea, of Hamlet, were understandably uneasy and filled with uncertainty while they awaited Caleb's diagnosis in May 2012. Caleb was referred to Memorial Children's Hospital when his pediatrician detected abnormal blood work, and his parents' anxiety level diminished when physicians immediately outlined a treatment plan for their son.
Thanks to Memorial's strong connection with cancer research, Caleb is enrolled in a Children's Oncology Group clinical trial for leukemia that offers the most current, front-line therapy for children with ALL. And in just one month after chemotherapy, Caleb achieved remission.
To sustain remission for the long haul, the standard treatment duration for boys with ALL is 3 1/2 years. So at least once a week, the Hoppe family makes the nearly 50-minute drive to Memorial's Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic for Caleb's therapy.
The Memorial atmosphere is quite different from what they experienced at Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis, where Caleb underwent initial treatment last spring. While the Hoppes praised the medical care provided at Riley, they felt disconnected within its larger medical environment compared to the more intimate and personal setting found at Memorial.
"The personable and knowledgeable staff at Memorial Children's Hospital have been great," says Seth. "Even when we email Dr. Morrison on the weekend with questions, she responds to us quickly."
Despite ongoing treatment, Caleb has remained an energetic little boy. Whether it's playing toy trucks complete with lots of "vroom vroom" sound effects, or riding high in the perch of his great-grandpa Jim's tractor, life is pretty good for Caleb. Though nothing is certain with cancer, the Hoppe family is confident their son will keep revving his engines to beat the disease long term.
"We are so grateful to everyone at Memorial who has helped care for Caleb and filled the journey with so much hope and promise," says Andrea.
Introducing Destiny - January's Pinwheel Hero of Memorial Children's Hospital
Crossing her right leg over her left as she doodles on her iPad, 9-year-old Destiny is a sort of paradox – a blend of adult wisdom and childlike wonder. This fusion is a result of living with a brain tumor called juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma, diagnosed when she was only 10 months old. Due to the type of tumor, she has required chemotherapy on multiple occasions over the past eight years.
Destiny's plan of care is an outstanding example of the teamwork between Memorial's Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Program and Riley Children's Hospital. The hospital relationship has allowed Destiny and her mom, Angie, to stay close to home in Michiana for cutting-edge therapies.
Destiny, who charms just about anyone who comes in contact with her thanks to long, curly hair and a pearly smile, hasn't known a life without cancer. But this disease and the accompanying visits to Memorial for treatment haven’t dampened her spirit. Maybe that's partly why despite ongoing chemotherapy, her black curls continue to grow as thick and full as ever.
"A brave and strong role model" is how Angie describes her daughter. By Destiny's own example, she helped a cancer-stricken classmate feel more at ease among the other students.
"She is the kind of child who even when she’s sick from the side effects of chemo, still makes people smile with her positive glow," Angie says.
While Destiny will continue this round of chemo through February, Angie remains steadfast about her daughter’s ability to keep going every day.
"Whatever it takes," Angie says.
You are about to enter a world of children who have a story to tell, and they each play the part of the hero. We like to call them Memorial Children's Hospital Pinwheel Heroes, and they are the reasons we love our jobs, because we are inspired by these Superkids and their journeys every day.
Our team is excited to feature 13 Pinwheel Heroes whose engaging stories get us thinking about life and what is most important. We are also thrilled to inform you that survival rates for children with cancer have improved dramatically over the past 30 years, which gives our program the wonderful opportunity to care for hundreds of cancer survivors.
Started in 1992 in affiliation with Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis, the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Program at Memorial Children's Hospital has evolved and grown in both the services it provides and the population it serves. One of only four centers for Pediatric Hematology/Oncology care in Indiana, our program provides care to children from an approximate 60-mile radius of South Bend, giving families the opportunity to stay close to home while receiving state-of-the-art care.
We provide cutting-edge diagnostic services and ongoing therapies for children with all types of cancer, including leukemia, lymphoma, brain tumors, sarcomas and other solid tumors. The number of children with cancer cared for at the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic has more than tripled since the program's inception, and the Clinic overall has served more than 2,000 children throughout Northern Indiana/Southern Michigan.
The Clinic currently averages 3,500 visits each year. Despite its recent growth, a strong working relationship continues with the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Program at Riley Children's Hospital. When required, this collaboration facilitates the referral of children for specialized services or needs who may then return home to receive the remainder of their therapy here.
Children with malignancies are treated at Memorial Children's Hospital according to innovative treatment protocols recommended by the Children’s Oncology Group, a National Cancer Institute-supported group devoted exclusively to childhood and adolescent cancer research. The program also works closely with the Radiation Oncology Center at Memorial Regional Cancer Center.
The Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Program also provides comprehensive care for a large number of children with hematologic disorders. In addition to chronic hematologic conditions, children with benign hematologic disorders are often referred to the Clinic for consultation and/or evaluation of detected hematologic abnormalities.
Our dedicated team also includes Tracy Haertling, D.O., Cathy Reese, MSN, APRN, B.C., CPHON, eight certified pediatric hematology/oncology nurses, a social worker, child life specialists and a parent advocate. Everyone has a story. Turn the page, and gain some wisdom and truth from a group of youthful and brave Pinwheel Heroes who inspire us all to be the heroes of our own stories, too. By modeling these children’s strength, courage and positivity, we all can touch the lives of those around us.
Colleen Morrison, M.D.
Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Program
Welcome to Memorial Regional Cancer Center’s 2012 Annual Report, which contains a wealth of valuable information about breakthrough cancer care right here in Michiana.
Stay tuned, because up next is the calendar portion of the report, featuring 13 Superkids Fighting Cancer. You won't want to miss reading about these real life heroes in our region. But first, take time to read through the cancer report. We’re saving lives at Memorial Regional Cancer Center.