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11-year-old fights cancer, Big House

Gabe Treve, 11, of Troy loves football.

The fifth-grader suffered a rare reaction to a cancer treatment which left him paralyzed at age 5. 

Fast forward six years: On Aug. 1, Gabe’s determination — coupled with his passion for football — helped him walk 100 yards at Michigan stadium.

“He’s pretty amazing; he never gives up,” said Christy Treve, his mom, said Monday. “I think (walking across Michigan Stadium) was one of the most amazing things he has ever done. He has worked so hard to be able to walk. And he loves everything U-M. Everything football. Putting those two things together. … His everyday is exhausting because he has physical therapy and trying to be a kid. When he gets to do fun things we are thrilled for him.”

Gabe had used a power wheelchair since the drug reaction from the leukemia treatment. He recently stood up and asked for walking braces.

The tunnel at Michigan Stadium and a chance to walk with the Wolverines’ football team were motivating factors.

“It was one of my goals to walk across a football field so I thought, ‘Why not now?’” Gabe said at the time, according to release from the University of Michigan media relations department.

Previously, the farthest he had had traveled on braces alone was a few feet. So his goal was ambitious: walking the 100 years in the Big House.

But once he started, he couldn’t stop, barely noticing family members running up beside him asking if he needed to take a break. 

“No, I’m going to keep going,” Gabe called back.

“I was just looking at my feet the whole time, and when I looked up, I realized I was at the halfway mark. So I thought ‘I’m not going to stop now.’ I got tired but I pushed myself. I want my legs to work, and if I don’t push myself, I won’t get better. I felt like I worked really hard and accomplished something that day.”

According to U-M, the walk was a pinnacle in Gabe’s journey that started six years ago with a devastating diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The then-kindergartner was immediately treated at a hospital near his Troy home.

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Gabe was transferred to University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, where the pediatric oncology team consulted with colleagues across the country who were familiar with such reactions. They decided to try a different medication combination for Gabe.

It worked, fighting the cancer and leading to remission two years ago. But Gabe still couldn’t walk independently.

His ultimate goal: Catch a football standing on his own.

And he’s working hard to make that happen, with regular physical and occupational therapy appointments with Mott physical therapist Kendra VanWasshenova. He also continued to check in with the Mott oncology team that has included doctors Gregory Yanik and Carl Koschmann.

“He’s a tough kid; he has had some bad situations in life put on his plate, both leukemia and a bad reaction to the initial therapy,” Koschmann said Monday. “Both of those are rare, so it’s like getting hit with lightning twice. I think the thing about Gabe that stands out to all of us is he has taken it without complaint.

“He has worked very hard. I think there is a chance he could walk again.”

If determination is the key Gabe is all in.

“I see myself with a bright future,” Gabe said. “I see myself walking, running, doing good in school and maybe playing in the NFL. I know I have to work really hard to do that.”

Contact Perry A. Farrell: pafarrell@freepress.com

 

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