But there’s another group – the survivors – who’ve redefined “strong” as we know it. A cancer survivor’s hope and the love of a supportive spouse offers a new definition of strength.
And there’s no better way to show it than to tell you Drew Lewis’ story.
An Evening with Sheryl Crow
We met Drew Lewis and his wife Amy hours before Drew’s family-friend, Sheryl Crow, returned to her home state to play a benefit concert in Springfield, MO for him. Just minutes into meeting Drew & Amy, we saw why a celebrity would drop her plans to help such an inspirational couple. In her words, “Some bring a casserole; I bring my guitar.”
With just a few week’s notice, Sheryl told Amy she was available to play a concert to help Drew with his medical bills. When Drew suggested that a pre-show cancer awareness event take place before Sheryl took the stage, Amy didn’t blink. (Despite working full-time, taking care of Drew and helping raise two teenagers.) Amy planned the entire event to honor her husband.
An Evening with Sheryl Crow was magical and the love and support from the community was palatable. Food vendors, local bands and fun cancer awareness gear (like an inflatable colon) flooded the patio a few hours before guests entered the Drury auditorium to hear Sheryl play her best hits.
At one point during the concert, the lights dimmed in a sold-out arena and Sheryl began to softly strum one of her most familiar tunes. At the chorus, she instructed the entire auditorium to shout “DREW” after she sang, “Are You Strong Enough to Be My Man?”
The audience chimed in. It was a perfect way to show that Drew was the epitome of strength and honor a man fighting a tough battle with colorectal cancer – a man who’s openness about his journey was impacting thousands by the day.
When January 2012 hit, Drew was determined that it would be a good year. As a real estate agent, the growing housing market had him hopeful about the year ahead. But just weeks into 2012, Drew received an unexpected curve ball.
He’d visited a doctor upon the insistence of a friend who told him that his change in stool needed prompt medical attention. A colonoscopy soon revealed a mass and further tests confirmed: Drew had stage IV colon cancer.
Upon hearing this shocking news, Drew made a bold choice. Not only was he going to fight colon cancer and beat it – but he was going to share his story with the world. He started a Facebook page - Drew Lewis – Kicking Colon Cancer’s Ass - where he gave open, detailed updates about his situation.
Readers kept up with Drew & Amy through colon surgery, chemo and clinical trials. They celebrated with the couple when they made the “leap” and married on Leap Day in February 2012.
In between the posts about cancer and chemo were shots of Drew on the lake and he and Amy enjoying dinner with friends – all ways Drew showed the world that cancer does NOT have to define you.
Readers journeyed with Drew & Amy as they traveled to the Cleveland Clinic and Nashville for treatments. They also felt the blow as the news turned grave and Amy posted updates about Drew’s liver failure and calling hospice.
Despite the “good, bad and the ugly” as Drew called it, the couple risked vulnerability and openly shared their emotional reactions to the frustrating news they were receiving.
A little over a month after Sheryl’s benefit concert, Drew’s strength weaned. He hung on for three weeks as friends and family stood by his side to give warm goodbyes.
On May 18, 2013 Drew took his last breath.
But the outpouring of support from a community that fell in love with Drew & Amy has carried on.
A new Facebook page, Memories of Drew Lewis, was set up so loved ones could remember him. Comments and “likes” flooded each post on Drew’s Facebook page. The local media even reported on his passing.
Thousands from around the U.S., and even some abroad, have responded to support Amy and Drew’s family. Many gave thanks for the inspiration that came from Drew & Amy’s open 16-month battle with the disease.
Drew – Redefining Strong
While he may not have beat the disease physically, Drew showed us how to defy cancer in all other ways. As Amy puts it, Drew “wouldn’t let cancer define who he was.”
He made the choice to “go public” and let others know about his battle. He accepted help, generosity and support from those most dear – and those unfamiliar to him. In between the appointments, he was on his boat, at concerts and with his family.
He let his story serve as an inspiration and encouraged others to enjoy the simple things in life.
Drew Lewis was strong enough. He kicked colon cancer’s ass.
May his legacy ripple throughout every community and be a shining example of what it means to be strong.
Our team at Fight Colorectal Cancer’s condolences go out to Amy and the friends,
family and loved ones of Drew.
It was an honor to meet you.