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Drew’s Story

Welcome to Drew's CaringBridg e site created to help keep friends and family informed about Drew. Thank you for all your prayers!


My cancer journey started in January of 2008. I was playing in two basketball leagues and toward the middle of the month my leg started to hurt whenever I played. When I started limping a lot my doctor thought I might have sprained my ACL or MCL. She told me to take two weeks off and rest – no basketball or gym class. The soreness did not get better so my doctor suggested we get an X-Ray.

On Feb 5 the X-Ray showed that I had a tumor on my tibia. I had an MRI the next day with a consultation at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics the day after that. On Feb 8 I had biopsy surgery and was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma (bone cancer). On Feb 13 I had surgery again to put in a portacath and then I started chemotherapy on Feb 14.

I went through 10 weeks of chemotherapy at the U of IA Children’s Hospital. It was hard at first, but got a little easier with each round. The pediatric oncology unit at U of IA makes going through chemo as comfortable as possible. The doctors and nurses are fantastic! They also have lots of things to keep you distracted (Playstation2 game systems in your hospital room and the cool Child Life specialists can even get you a NintendoDS to play with). I’ve taken piano lessons for about 5 years, so I also like to play the three grand pianos they have around the hospital. A doctor that was listening to me play one day suggested I put out my hat for tips.

Osteosarcoma tumors do not usually shrink or go away with chemotherapy – we just want to kill as many cancer cells in the tumor as possible. After the 10 weeks of chemo I had to have surgery to remove the tumor. You have to take the tumor out to survive. My awesome orthopedic doctor explained my options very clearly -- they could do limb salvage surgery or amputation. He said they have to get all of the tumor and the surrounding tissue out. Because my tumor was pretty large and was at the top of my tibia, if they salvaged my leg it really wouldn’t be much of a leg. I would get to keep my foot, but my leg would be very fragile and I really couldn’t do a lot of the things I like to do. I probably wouldn’t be able to play basketball or baseball or even run around and wrestle with my brother. If they amputated my leg then I could get a prosthetic leg in its place. The doctor explained that the prosthetic leg would be strong and would most likely have a microprocessor in the knee (like a bionic leg) to help me walk and run just like normal. He said that most kids with prosthetic legs could play recreational sports and pretty much do what they want. The decision to amputate my leg was pretty easy for me. My parents had a tough time with the idea at first, but they knew it would be best for me in the long run.

On April 25 I had my third surgery in three months to have my lower right leg amputated. They cut it off right through my knee so I have all of my femur (thigh bone), but none of my lower leg. We had some good news and tough news following the surgery. The good news was that all of the margins were clear which means that they got the entire tumor out and all the tissue around it was cancer free. The tough news was that the 10 weeks of chemotherapy that I went through before the surgery only killed about 10% of the tumor. That means I have to do about 30 more weeks of chemo to make sure I stay cancer free.

Trying to be patient is the toughest part of all this cancer stuff. But some things have really helped me get through it. I had a great teacher in school that helped me a lot. Whenever I wasn’t doing chemo in Iowa City, I would be at school and it would be almost just like normal. All of the teachers and my friends have been super great. They even had a big party and fundraiser for me on the last day of school.

I’m also really trying to be patient waiting for my short leg to heal so I can get my bionic leg. I just can’t wait to be walking again! And it will be cool to have my new leg when I start middle school this fall. Also, the faster my leg heals, the faster I can get started on chemo, and the faster I can finish the 30 weeks and get back to normal.

My bionic leg should be able to help me do gym class this fall and I really want to play baseball next spring. It was hard sitting on the sidelines this spring but I cheered for my brother and tried to think of this year as my “red-shirt” season.

I’ve tried to have a positive attitude through all of this and I have a favorite Bible verse that has helped me a lot. It’s Joshua 1:9, “I command you to be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you may go!” I have a long way to go, but He’ll be there to help me through it.

Thanks for all your prayers!

Drew also memorized all of Psalm 139 when he was 7 and could/can still recite it! It's a great passage - check it out.

Latest Journal Update

Happy Birthday Drew

Hello Everyone,
We just wanted to stop in here to wish our Drew a very Happy "18th" Birthday today!  We know he's having a wonderful day in heaven and sure he's playing a round or two of golf with his Grandpas!    
His birthday feast will certainly be a large t-bone steak and all the fixings - french fries, french bread, grilled roasted garlic and a big fruit salad!  And of course, his Great Grandma Small has made him the amazing, family tradition - chocolate birthday cake from scratch with custard filling!   Grandma Leta is singing the loudest as he blows out the candles.
Oh how we miss our Drew!  
Doug and Adam and I are doing our very best to Live Strong by Joshua 1:9!  
Adam has just finished his Sophomore year at Kennedy and we know his big brother is so very proud of him - he finished the school year with straight A's (4.2) with two AP Classes - AP Bio and AP Psych! He has 3 lined up for next year - AP Physics, AP Lang Arts and AP US History!   
At 6' 9" now, Adam would tower over his big brother, but Drew would keep him in line!      
Besides his school work, Basketball is also keeping Adam busy year round with AAU ball, weight lifting and Athletic Republic.  He's looking forward to a great Junior year.  
Doug and I are staying busy with work and looking forward to our vacation right before school starts in August.  
We hope this note finds you all doing well. 
Thank you for all you've done to support and love us! 
Living Strong by Joshua 1:9,
Doug and Robin and Adam 
P.S.  Oh Lyn, thank you for sharing the note about the Children's Hospital tower.  We know he is super proud of the progress and watching over everyone there!  We'll come down to visit someday soon to see all our friends!

10 people hearted this



Amy Greer
By Amy Greer
Drew's name came up at our house just this week. We won't forget him! Happy birthday, Drew!
steve mudgett
By Steve Mudgett - Ragbrai Team LIVESTRONG
Thanks for keeping us up on Drew's family. I had no idea that Drew and Jack Hoeger share the same birthday. I have a "Just Drew It" sticker taped on the top tube of my bike that keeps me going when I "feel" tired.
Muna Matthews
By Muna Matthews
Dear Robin and family,

When I saw the notice that there was a new entry on Drew's CaringBridge site, it instantly took me back to all of Drew's posts that I used to so enjoy reading. Whether the topic was school, or canoeing, or playing the piano, or teasing his brother, or enjoying family outings, or whatever procedure or test he was facing next, he always approached every moment with a fearless outlook and contagious joy that still inspires me to this day. I know all of you miss him terribly, but I'm glad to hear that everyone is doing well…knowing that Drew is always in your corner, cheering you on every step of the way.

Happy Birthday to Drew, and my best to you all!
2 people hearted this
Kathy dulski
By Kathy dulski
Happy Birthday, Drew!

I think of him often. Joshua 1:9 is posted in my cubicle at work reminding me to be strong and be courageous as I am still battling my sarcoma. He was one of my teachers. May your day be filled with all your happiest memories.
Kelly Magers
By Kelly Magers
Drew, happy birthday buddy!
Tom Jennings
By — last edited
I think of Drew often and what an inspiration he is. Adam I'm sure Drew is as proud as can be about how well you are doing!

Stay strong Wall family.

Tom Jennings
Team Livestrong- RAGBRAI