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Paralympic Athlete and Cancer Survivor Shares Their Inspiration for Going into Medicine

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Sam Grewe was a promising young athlete who was known for being faster and stronger than his peers when he got a life-changing diagnosis. After growing eight inches in less than a year, a biopsy confirmed he had osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer brought on by sudden growth. 

Grewe ultimately faced a dire choice that would forever change the trajectory of his life.

Changing Course

Grewe was raised in the small town of Middlebury, Indiana where he excelled at sports. His sudden growth spurt helped him succeed at just about every sport he tried. But he started noticing a dull, achy pain in his right knee during his 7th grade basketball season. His parents assumed it was growing pains but his symptoms only got worse. 

He finally went in for an X-Ray. That’s when the doctors found a cancerous fist-size tumor in his distal femur. 

Over the next two years, Sam went in for 23 rounds of chemotherapy. Towards the end of his treatment, his doctors presented him with a difficult decision. He could either have his leg amputated or try to have his limb salvaged, which would have meant replacing his knee with an artificial joint. 

His doctors said a return to sports would be nearly impossible if he chose to salvage the limb, due to the fragility of the replacement joint. He thought about what kind of life he wanted and realized that he wanted to lead as much of an active lifestyle as possible.

So, he ultimately decided to have his leg amputated, at a staggering 12 years old. 

Two years after completing his final round of chemo, he fell in love with active sports and soon discovered high jump. He started training and qualified for his world championship a year later. 

It was at the Doha 2015 Paralympic Track & Field World Championships that he won his first gold medal. 

He’s been on the national team for seven years where he’s won three gold medals, a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games, and, most recently, a gold medal at the 2021 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

He’s also the first amputee high jumper to compete in the history of the NCAA. 

Committed to Care

During his time in the hospital, he learned how vulnerable it is to be a patient. Losing his autonomy changed his outlook on life, giving him a newfound appreciation for the little things in life. He also witnessed the impact that a caring, compassionate doctor can have on a patient. 

It became clear to him that he had a duty to care for others that are facing the same challenges he once faced.

He recently graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2021 and is now a first-year medical student at the University of Michigan. He plans to specialize in either oncology or orthopedic surgery, where he’d have the opportunity to utilize his past experiences to provide the best possible care for his patients.

Bravo, Sam, Bravo.

Steven Briggs
Steven Briggs is a healthcare writer for Scrubs Magazine, hailing from Brooklyn, NY. With both of his parents working in the healthcare industry, Steven writes about the various issues and concerns facing the industry today.

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