When Evan Meade shakes your hand and smiles, you see the very picture of a strong, healthy American teenager. The Franklin Community High School senior is getting ready to suit up with his football team for a big game this weekend.

Then he shows you photos from one year ago. A frail shadow of a boy lies in a bed. 140 pounds. No eyebrows. Translucent skin. Your eyes involuntarily dart from the shocking photos back to the dark-haired young man sitting before you. It is impossible to believe this is the same person. “They say I probably shouldn’t have made it,” Evan confides.

Evan’s dramatic journey began in January of 2010. He developed sudden body aches and an upset stomach. He and his family suspected the flu. Blood work at the doctor’s office showed otherwise. Evan had acute myeloid leukemia.

Evan’s mother, Patty, will never forget the day her son heard his diagnosis. “This big six foot boy lying in this bed was looking up at us with tears in his eyes and he said, ‘Am I gonna die?’”

But Evan’s oncologist at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, Dr. Robert Fallon, offered hope. “He told me not to worry because I was going to be back on the football field eventually,” Evan said.

It turned out leukemia cells were in 97% of Evan’s bloodstream. He began chemotherapy the same evening. Two days later, all the toxins released by the dying cancer cells began causing his organs to fail. Evan spent 36 days in an induced coma before getting well enough for more chemotherapy. He received five courses in a nine-month time period. Thanks to bonds with staff and other families, Riley became home for the Meades.

“We cried, they held us in the hallway,” Patty said. “They were our family. They still are our family. The bonds are just unreal.”

Today Evan is cancer-free and back to a healthy 220 lbs. He helped organize a dance marathon at his school, raising $12,000 dollars for the Riley Children’s Foundation, and has spoken at more than a dozen other dance marathons across the state. He spearheaded a “Bleed 4 Meade: Sack Leukemia” blood drive at Lucas Oil Stadium, where donors also signed up for the national bone marrow registry. And Evan continues to mentor young cancer patients. It’s all his way of showing his gratitude to Riley staff and supporters.

“I don’t think ‘thank you’ is near enough,” Evan says, struggling for words. He says he owes his life to God and his doctors. “They are the reason I’m still here today.”

His mother agrees. Her eyes fill with tears when she explains what Riley means to her.

“They saved my boy. You know? They gave me back Evan.”

 
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