First cancer, now Western States

Granite Bay’s Sewell takes on 100-miler just 3 years after beating leukemia
By: Brett Ransford Journal Correspondent
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When you have been through what Andrew Sewell has faced, running 100 miles may seem more like a walk in the park. The Granite Bay High graduate defeated leukemia in just over three years and now has his will set on the Western States Endurance Run. The 37th annual event spans from its starting point in Squaw Valley to Auburn this weekend. Nearly 500 runners from around the world are entered and two of those will be Sewell and his father, Garry. The difference three years can make is an experience Sewell said he wouldn’t trade for anything. “There is no way I can describe this experience to anyone who has not been through it themselves,” Sewell said. “It was an experience that changed my life completely. I learned, grew, and matured a lot because of my battle with leukemia and I feel like my whole family created a much stronger bond.” Andrew’s family includes his father, his mother Laurie, a 16-year-old brother and two sisters, ages 10 and 8. On Dec. 16, 2003 the Sewell family was enjoying their 12-year-old active Granite Bay Junior Grizzly football player catching passes and touching the end zone, but coming home with unusual and significant bruising. After a couple of months and exhausting medical checks and medications Garry took his son to the hospital due to more bruising. What began as blood tests would change his son’s life. “The three years of chemotherapy could be explained in volumes, but our amazing families and community of friends and associates supported us however we needed,” Garry said. “Andrew’s positive attitude was infectious. Andrew smiled and thanked the doctor after he just inserted the needle through his bone to extract bone marrow. He is constantly thanking those around him and encouraging those that need it.” Running 100 miles through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, he is sure to need as much encouragement as he can get. Home for the summer after his freshman year at Brigham Young University in Utah, Andrew spends his time working for the Eureka Union School District, Ace Hardware in Granite Bay and on an intense training routine. “My dad ran it in for the first time in 2003, the summer before I was diagnosed,” Sewell said of Western States. “I was completely fascinated by the fact that they ran all day and night and that they could accomplish such an amazing feat.” April 17, 2007 was another amazing day as Sewell finished his last chemotherapy treatments. “I was 15 when my treatment ended and I entered remission,” he said. “I made it my personal goal to get back in shape and become active again. These three years have been a very long road to get back in shape the way I have. I worked really hard to regain my strength and muscle mass lost as well as all the weight that I gained from my treatments.” During his senior year, Sewell played rugby, building up endurance toward the end of the season. At that point he ran his first 50-miler, qualifying among the ranks of 400 athletes out of nearly 1,500 to make the Western States. “Since then I have continued with my trail running and run in a few smaller races and another 50-miler,” Andrew said. “I fell in love with trail running and the adrenaline involved in night running and that love has stuck with me ever since.” A graduate of Del Oro High , Andrew’s father’s name still stands in the record books as a runner. “I did not run for over 20 years after high school,” Garry said. “I was talked into running once a week at night on the trails with my friend. He suggested I run an ultra-marathon and I ran the Way to Cool 50K. Within a month I was running a 50-miler and since I had run over 30 ultra-marathons with five finishes that qualified for the Western States.” When diagnosed Andrew worked with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, choosing to take what he gained from his experience and give back. He created a Web site,, to view and support Andrew and donate to the charities involved. Over the past three years the Sewell family has raised $10,000 through for Make-A-Wish, Camp Okizu, Leukemia Lymphoma Society and other charities. “I would like to say that I have so much respect, gratitude and love for our community and for the way they have supported me through the years,” Andrew said. “We are all capable of doing hard things in our lives. Don’t take life or anybody in it for granted. Set goals and don’t stop until you achieve them. Anything is possible if you set your mind to it.”