Greencastle grad supports Relay by sharing battle

Friday, April 27, 2007

As a 17-year-old Jeffrey Rowe stood in line waiting to take a physical, life appeared great.

Rowe was a soon-to-be-senior at Greencastle High School, ready to tackle fall sports.

In his past, he had received his physicals from his local doctor. But he decided to have his physical conducted through the school.

The doctors conducting the physicals noticed something wrong and would not check Rowe off to participate in athletics.

Soon, Rowe found out he would battle his greatest obstacle. Cancer.

Rowe was diagnosed with a brain tumor, changing his life forever.

Now, nearly 18 years later, Rowe spends his time as a motivational speaker and on Thursday, he spoke to the GHS student body about his ordeal.

"My battle with cancer has been long and hard," Rowe told the students, referring to the physical and emotional scars. "But I turned a huge negative in my life into a positive."

Turning negatives into positives was Rowe's main topic of discussion Thursday. He was asked to speak to the students only two days before Putnam County celebrates Relay For Life, which will take place Saturday at DePauw University's Blackstock Stadium.

Rowe will be at Saturday's event and will speak during the Luminaria Ceremony.

Rowe said speaking to Greencastle students has always been a goal of his, in addition to speaking to cancer patients at the Mayo Clinic in Wisconsin, where he was treated after his family moved away from the area.

"I've got half of my list knocked off," Rowe said. "Everything is coming full circle. To come back here is pretty amazing."

On Thursday, Rowe encouraged all GHS students in attendance to turn negatives into positives, something he learned at a young age from several different people.

The Knoxville, Tenn., native shared several examples of turning negatives into positives from his life with the GHS students Thursday.

He said he remembered attempting to cook brownies as an 11-year-old, but managed to use baking soda instead of baking powder, turning his brownies into a soupy-concoction.

Still, his mother -- one of his influences -- turned the negative into a positive.

He remembered finding out his family was going to have to move before his senior year because of his father's job. He told the students Thursday that former Greencastle teacher, the late Robert Berry, had offered him an opportunity to live with his family if it was OK with both families, only to find out six weeks later that he had a brain tumor.

Rowe also encouraged the students to become "people of influence," stressing the importance to help others when they need it the most and calling it a "Positive Impact Project."

"We are surrounded by people of influence," Rowe told the students. "Each and everyone of you is a person of influence. You have the option if you want to be influential or not.

"Find a way to help other people."

Rowe told the students that his parents and Berry were influential people in his life, in addition to Greencastle teachers Vickie Parker and Karen Swalley, both of whom still teach at the school.

"My heroes are the people of influence in my life," Rowe said. "Our people of influence spread across the board."

Rowe also urged the students to attend Relay For Life Saturday. He's been involved with the event since 1994.

"It's a big part of my life," he said.

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