Thirty months have gone by since Evan Meade was told by physicians that the leukemia he contracted as a teenager was in remission.
The Butler University freshman looks great, feels great and would seem in serious need of a 25th hour to each day considering how busy he stays.
Meade, a biology major, is taking 15 credit hours this semester, a launching pad for what the former Franklin Community High School football player hopes is a career in pediatric oncology.
But there’s more. With Meade there usually is. And it centers on the practice of giving back by utilizing what free time he has to educate people about the importance of donating blood.
After all, Meade is something of an authority on the subject having undergone a total of 56 transfusions while ill.
“Evan can stop a room in a second. He always speaks from the heart, and they stop in their tracks. He can speak to adults, and he can speak to kids,” Meade’s mother, Patty, said. “He and my daughter both are just amazing. Claire is so supportive of everything Evan does. Their bond is unbelievable. ... I’m tearing up just talking about it.”
It’s a parent’s prerogative to worry about a child. Jake and Patty always will, even though what used to be weekly checkup appointments for their son have since been spaced out to monthly, then bimonthly and now quarterly.
“I’m pretty confident going in because I know how I feel,” Meade said. “My parents hate them. They still get nervous.”
“Oh, it’s horrible. Evan had an appointment just last month,” Patty added. “We get anxious. We have anxiety. I think even after March 2015 (the greatly
anticipated date of Meade’s five-year anniversary of being declared leukemia-free) there will be anxiety. These four-month stretches are hard right now, and pretty soon Evan will be going to six months.”
If remaining busy somehow could ward off the threat of a return, Patty would sleep better at night. Just as he did while in high school, Meade is a man on a mission to get those around him to roll up their shirt sleeves and give rather than act only when the disease strikes closer to home.
“It started when I was at Riley Hospital for Children. Just giving back to the hospital, and now I also do things for the Indiana Blood Center,” Meade said. “The biggest challenge is getting people to see the big picture. What I try to do is use my story to draw people in. I think people are always willing to listen because that could be any one of them at any time.”
Meade was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia on Jan. 27, 2010, at Riley. During chemotherapy treatments, he lost 60 pounds and every strand of his curly black hair. Less than two months later, it was determined his leukemia was in remission.
At that point, Meade decided to do what he could to raise money, and he’s been at it ever since.
In March 2011, Meade took part in FCHS’s first Riley Dance Marathon. He’s also mastered the art of organizing blood drives, raising money for research and registering people to be bone marrow donors. His passion hasn’t waned now that he’s part of the Butler scene. A new set of friends and acquaintances only serves to broaden his target audience.
The school is hosting a dance marathon in February with proceeds going to Riley. Furthermore, Meade as part of Bulldogs Be Bigs will soon become a big brother to someone other than just Claire.
Meade is the first to admit he owes his life to the talented staff at Riley. In his mind he might never be able to fully repay them for their kindness and dedication, but he’s certainly going to try as one of its most driven ambassadors.
“I’ve always wanted to be a doctor, and after having leukemia I saw pretty much every aspect of the profession,” Meade said. “I know I can be a good doctor. But when I was laying there and being told I had cancer, to have someone there saying they’ve been through it, too, would have been big.”
Like anyone who’s been touched by the disease, Meade’s heart ached when he heard that Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano had recently been diagnosed with leukemia. Meade has never met Pagano, but through his efforts of giving back he has exchanged pleasantries with ex-Colts players Gary Brackett and Dallas Clark as well as former Indianapolis coaches Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell.
On Tuesday, the Colts teamed up with the Indiana Blood Center to hold a blood drive in honor of Pagano (go to www.donorpoint.org). Donations, which can be taken through Saturday, are essential in that they help restore strength in cancer patients following the rigors of chemotherapy.
For the record, the Pagano blood drive wasn’t Evan Meade’s idea. It just sounds like it was.