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Sarah Ewald: Overcoming a rare, aggressive sarcoma

Back in 2010, Sarah Ewald was a high school senior and alpine skier. When she noticed a bump on her foot, she assumed it was a sports injury.

But at the close of ski season, she visited a physician to determine why the bump wouldn’t go away. Her doctor diagnosed alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and aggressive sarcoma that only affects one in one million children and adolescents. Sarah began chemotherapy the week after diagnosis. That August, surgery removed her spleen and half of her pancreas, where the cancer had spread. Radiation and more chemo followed.

For her treatments, her parents—both U of M alumni—chose University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital. “We all just love the U of M Children’s Hospital,” says Sarah. “Well, as much as you can love a place where you’re getting treated for being sick. We had a great experience with everyone.”

Sarah enjoyed 15 cancer-free months until a tumor appeared on her upper left thigh. More chemo, radiation, and surgery followed. During both rounds of extensive treatments, Sarah was enrolled in drug studies—and both times she was “kicked off” for negative side effects.

But, she says, “[study drugs] made me feel like I was being more closely watched.” Research is so important, she adds. “I would see a 5-year-old child going through this and think, ‘I got to experience a childhood.’ It’s so hard to see little kids going through this.”

Today, Sarah visits oncologist Dr. Brenda Weigel every three months and is happily pursuing her college career at the University of Minnesota.

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