MIDDLEBURY — Sam Grewe isn't the fastest player on the Raider Lacrosse junior varsity team.
A prosthetic leg and a two-inch height difference between his knees makes it hard to run, but he attacks and scores goals for the Raiders with a fervor.
"I've never seen anybody hustle more than Sam," said Eric Lee, who serves on the board of directors for Raider Lacrosse.
Sam Grewe, a Northridge freshman who won his battle with osteosarcoma last year, has rallied back and returned to competitive athletics. After testing the waters with freshman basketball last winter, Sam earned a spot on the Northridge JV lacrosse team this spring.
No one is more surprised than Sam's mother, Michelle Grewe, who can't believe her son is back in contact sports so soon.
"I see that the sports part of his life really encourages him with his health, keeping him moving forward and just being involved and not feeling sorry for himself or sitting at home and being a grump," she said. "He is just out and about and involved."
Because his knees have a two-inch height difference to account for his projected growth, Sam isn't as fast as he'll someday be. He stands 6-foot-1, but the prosthetic affixed to his right leg is fitted for 6-3.
But between Sam's smarts and a new and improved attitude, he's doing just fine.
"He can kind of compensate to a certain degree that he sees the plays and guide other people," Michelle Grewe said. "It's a whole other feeling now as a parent. The stress that you feel sometimes as a parent watching your kids athletically — wanting them to be the top scorer, wanting them to excel — changed to, 'Look at the smile on his face.' ... He's not as hard on himself as he used to be."
It's just another step in a long, painful process that started with Sam's diagnosis in December 2011, gained steam when he was adopted by the Notre Dame football team in April 2012 and culminated with the final cancer-free scans in February 2013.
"No matter what you got to keep going, you got to stay positive," Sam said.
So Sam emerges from games battered, bruised and smiling. Life has returned to some semblance of normalcy, though Michelle Grewe noted: "Our normal has changed."
The effects of childhood cancer extend beyond the Grewes, even among the Raider Lacrosse team. Sam's teammate, Eric Wentworth, has a brother, Cameron Howard, dealing with cancer. Another JV player, Jackson Ganger, has a cousin, Will Mishler, battling cancer.
Because of these connections, Raider Lacrosse is hosting a "LAX Out Childhood Cancer" event Saturday, May 3, at Middlebury Magic soccer fields, 58685 C.R. 37.
Northridge varsity and junior varsity teams will compete against teams from Marian, South Bend Adams, Chesterton and Lafayette Harrison. Games begin at 10 a.m.
"I think that it’s a really great thing that the community is doing," Sam said. "Even after my fight, they’re still on my side looking for a cure and raising money and everything, and I hope that there’s more awareness — that they’re aware of childhood cancer. That they realize how serious it is and they can take further steps."
While Saturday will raise awareness for childhood cancer, watching Sam play will serve as an energetic reminder that life can return to normal.
"He's a living, breathing message," Lee said. "He's a positive reinforcement that something really scary and bad like cancer taking away part of your leg can be beaten. You can be successful."