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HiLite 4-19-2000  (Carmel High School Newspaper)

 

 

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Student finds peace, overcomes pain

Sophomore grows spiritually throughout battle with cancer
 

by Christina Jewett
Indiana Daily Student

Published March 27, 2000
Updated Monday, 27-Mar-2000 00:49:12 EST

From Ballantine Hall to the Indiana Memorial Union, students hurried past, rushing to get to their classes. But if they had taken a moment to venture down the cobblestone path to Beck Chapel, they might have seen the still form of Craig Sowder. He sometimes sat in the chapel, reading and meditating in the jewel-toned light filtered through stained glass windows. Sowder wasn't in a hurry. He didn't really care if he made it to class or not.

Sowder found out in January that the cancer he beat -- the cancer in his heart and lungs -- is back. Wednesday at his weekly check-up, doctors found bleeding tumors in his lungs and told him he only has a few days to live.

He's been through chemotherapy, lost his hair and eyebrows, but those came back. He lost some of his lung capacity, but an oxygen tank replenished his wind before he went out. He lost interest in partying and feeling sorry for himself, but he's gained a spiritual journey that has brought him peace and contentment."I didn't think 'I'm going to die so I'd better make friends with God,'" Sowder said. "I'd been searching. God doesn't shout, he whispers. And I heard. Now the only thing I want to do is help people. I've been given a great gift."
 

Tropical 'Donut'

When Sowder rolled up to McNutt Quad in August 1998 after his trip from Carmel, Ind., he moved in with thousands of other freshmen.

After men's fall rush that year, he joined Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity -- he felt like he fit in there.

He wore a Hawaiian shirt during rush so he could rule out the houses where the guys gave him funny looks for being different. At Alpha Sigs, a brother came up and complimented him.

"I have 10 of those shirts in my closet upstairs," the brother told Sowder.

Sowder moved into the house freshman year. He earned the nickname "Donut" for a stone he found in a creek that he wears on a hemp necklace. It's perfectly round and a bit rough on the surface with a hole in the center.

It wasn't until March of his freshman year he started noticing pressure in his chest and shortness of breath. One day when he was carrying his laundry downstairs, he passed out.

"I thought I was dead," he said.

His roommates at the time drove him to the hospital.

"I was in so much pain I was flailing on the table saying 'give me something,'" he said.

Doctors removed three liters of fluid that had filled his pericardium, the sack protecting his heart. After several days of testing, he traveled back to St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis.

The whole time he said his mind was racing: he had papers to turn in, duties at the house and he really wanted to see the Little 500 race -- it would be his first.

"I had all the stupid 'here and now' stuff running through my head," he said.

In Indianapolis, doctors performed open-heart surgery and found a tumor on his right atrium. A vertical scar spans his chest like a pale pink book filed in to his heart.

"All I was thinking is that I'll have this scar and my kids are going to think I'm freaky," he said.

The Rustle in the Trees

From his initial collapse to the start of the new millennium, Sowder gained a new perspective and a new lifestyle. Concerns surrounding the party for the coming weekend or asking out a pretty girl in a class became trivialities.

"I used to worry about where I was going to party each weekend, but now that I've been through the fire those things don't seem as important."

Complaining, blaming anyone for anything used to be a way he and his roommates would blow off steam. From the apartment in Houston where he had months of outpatient treatment, he mused in his journal that as he wrote, his roommates were likely in a complaining session.

"They don't know how good things are," he wrote. "I don't either. I think I'm so special and misfortunate, but I really do have it good. Sometimes it takes a little convincing, though. I don't have my health, but I do have sight, sound, family and financial security. God never gives you more than you can handle."

Back in Bloomington this fall after his body received all the treatment it could take, he turned his attention from "petty" things to God -- in himself, in others and in the world.

"I can't explain the way I hear Him and see Him with every step I take," he said. "I know that rustle in the trees is for me. It's for you, too."

Wading through the Pain

April 1, 1999, two days after the open-heart surgery, his parents and brother broke the news -- he has cancer. His diagnosis was cardiac angiosarcoma, or cancer primarily in his heart that has spread to his lungs.

Sarcoma is the rarest and most aggressive form of cancer. It only affects .001 percent of the population. But Sowder wasn't hearing the news directly. He felt like an outsider looking in at his parents and brother discussing treatment options. St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis didn't deal with Sowder's condition, so his family decided it to continue treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Sowder spent the next two weeks at home trying to recover. He sat in the same oversized brown chair, 23 hours a day, mostly sleeping, trying to get through the pain of surgery.

After the two weeks, he and his family flew to Houston where he underwent treatment at one of the leading experimental sarcoma facilities in the country. The hospital was immense. Every time he gave blood -- a daily routine -- he felt like he was on an assembly line. "Cafeteria style hospital," he called it.

"There was no one-on-one attention," he said. "Everyone seemed like they were there for their paycheck. I wonder why those ladies didn't ask any questions or show concern. I was 19 -- I should have been in college."

For the next six months in Houston he received chemotherapy through a catheter routed to his heart for five hours, five out of every 21 days. His date with the "red devil" -- as adriamycin is nicknamed -- left him with mouth sores, red urine and constant nausea. If he wasn't too nauseous, usually the sores in his mouth prevented him from eating. He also had to give himself a shot in the leg twice a day to increase his white blood cell count.

"Chemo kills everything in your body, not just cancer," Sowder said.

Against the Odds

After six months of treatment, his CAT scans and MRIs came out clear. His doctor said he could return to his life, but it would never be the same. He would have to go through check-ups every two months and live with the fear that every cold could be a new onslaught of cancer.

He and his family decided that he'd go through a final round of chemo in Indianapolis, just to be safe. He spent the rest of the summer at home in Carmel, registered for classes and moved back to Bloomington.

The summer of treatment in Houston had been taxing on Sowder and his family. He had been looking forward to getting away from a life that revolved around his illness and going back to his normal routine.

But when he got back to IU, part of his "normal routine" presented a rude awakening. It was the weekend of homecoming, and one of his friends ended a long night by breaking a window, just for the heck of it.

"I cried myself to sleep that night," he said. "All summer all I wanted to do was get back to this place, and I was disappointed at how stupid people can be. I realized this isn't what I wanted for myself."

Sowder knew he wanted to finish his English degree and go on to seminary with his friend George Helmbock, a student and computer technician in Indianapolis.

After talking this December, they realized how close their beliefs are in a "church without walls" focused on love and acceptance. Helmbock said Sowder has a peace that he envies and a way of truly understanding other people.

"He grew up really fast," Helmbock said. "He's like a 130-year-old Zen master that people consult with on the mountain side."

All for her

The formation of his plans for the future came to a halt in January when he had to fly to Houston for another check-up MRI and CAT scan. He'd been coughing up blood for a month.

"Deep down I knew it was back," he said.

His doctor came in to the room with two doctors in training. Sowder thought they must have been learning how to give a death sentence.

"They said 'the scans don't look good, it's back.' So my mom breaks down and I reached over her and said 'it's OK,'" Sowder said.

He found out the tumor was growing again, and the doctor laid out the remaining treatment options.

"I said, 'Hey man, don't BS me -- am I going to die from this? " he recalled.

The answer was yes.

His mother, Jill Sowder, has been by Sowder's side throughout his illness, researching, praying and crying. She made Sowder soy drinks until he couldn't stand any more.

"I may be selfish, but I want to know he will be living a happy and healthy life for a long time," she said. "I don't want Sowder to be sick, and I feel as though I am fighting this cancer too. I will not rest until I have done everything I can to make him well."

The only time Sowder cried during his illness was with his mother, who cried every day. Every time the pain of chemotherapy overtakes him he takes strength in fighting back, staying strong for her.

House meeting

Sowder spent the drive southbound on Route 37 figuring out how he would break the news to his roommates. In Bloomington they were gathered with a few friends, telling stories as their laughter rose about the heavy bass of rap music. While Sowder played words back in his mind, a mix of The Jayhawks, Wilco and Radiohead played in his car.

Sowder's best friend, Glen Carson, noticed that Sowder was late, but dismissed the thought when he remembered the ice on the road and the snow falling outside.

When Sowder arrived, he gathered them in Carson's bedrooms for a "house meeting." His hands were shaking and his voice quivered.

He told them with a grimace and a shrug of his shoulders. It's back. There isn't a cure, but he told them he would begin taking drugs to slow down the growth of the tumor so he could participate in experiments.

A few tears were shed, and each roommate gave Sowder a hug. Carson had no outward reaction to the news, but he and another roommate sat on the porch instead of joining the rest of the guys in the living room. They faced an empty alley, sheltered in the freezing darkness where no one would see their tears.

"We probably cried for about 20 minutes," Carson said. "We probably said three or four words to each other the whole time."

Buying Time

Every Wednesday since the cancer came back, Sowder has traveled to Indianapolis to receive Taxol, a drug administered to slow down the growth of the tumor so he can participate in other experiments.

Through all the pain and sorrow of his illness, Sowder has a way of shrugging with opened hands and peace in his eyes -- his surrender to a plan larger than he can conceive.

"Heaven is not a place, it's a state. A lot of people think heaven is the best feeling on earth, or if they like horses they figure heaven is full of horses. That's not it. There is no way that words can comprehend the God experience. I hate to come off like I know everything, because I don't. But I did learn a lot.

"I think I'm pretty close to finding out what's at the end of the path," he said. "Some reach the goal, and when they do the Lord says, 'Hey you're done, come on home to me.' Maybe I'm selfish or delusional, but you gotta think that by Him giving me this disease I'm close (to the goal)."

 

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Sophomore remembered for positive attitude

 by Christina Jewett
Indiana Daily Student

Published April 12, 2000
Updated Wednesday, 12-Apr-2000 03:49:56 EST

Sophomore Craig Sowder died Monday at 8:50 p.m. after battling a rare form of cancer. April 1, 1999 he was diagnosed with angiosarcoma after open-heart surgery. Only .001 percent of the population has this type of cancer. He was an English major and a member of Alpha Sigma Phi.

"Craig passed away at 8:50 p.m. CST tonight," his mother wrote in an e-mail to friends and family. "He fought to the end. His heart just stopped -- it was tired. I will miss him every day of my life. He is at peace, I know."

Glen Carson, a sophomore and one of Sowder's roommates, said Craig was a great friend who will be missed by everyone. Sowder had a way of always turning a bad situation into something good, Carson said.

"He could always make light of a situation at the same time not making a joke out of it," he said.

Steve Freedman, a junior and also one of Sowder's roommates, said Craig made an impression on people he even met briefly -- even people who just heard about him.

"He had an aura about him," he said. "From talking to him once people picked up on it."

Freedman said Sowder was always there when friends had a problem or were feeling down.

"He was there to talk to or hang out with. It was hard to be in a bad mood around Craig. He was always positive and upbeat. He was always willing to do whatever he could to help anyone out."

Sowder could find beauty in anything, said sophomore Nick Ehrhart, another roommate.

"He and I took a walk around campus once, and he showed me stuff I'd never thought about or seen," Ehrhart said. "He just found beauty in everything. He enjoyed himself."

Ehrhart also said Sowder was intelligent and perceptive.

"He'd sit there an listen to me blab on, and he'd sum up what I'd said in a few short words. It was always really good. He was so smart."

Ehrhart said he will try to possess Sowder's non-judgmental attitude.

"The way he was so non-judgmental about people -- I've tried to use that in my life. He never made assumptions about people, he didn't go by what other people said."

Sophomore Greg McQuade, a friend, said Sowder gave his all when listening.

"Some people just give part of their heart; they don't trust you," he said. "He gave everything -- he trusted you completely. He wanted you in his heart as he wanted to be in yours."

Sowder earned the nickname 'donut' for a donut-shaped stone he wore on a necklace.

"He was donut, the one and only donut," McQuade said. "He wore Hawaiian shirts to the parties; we had a great time watching him be himself -- he loved himself, and he loved everybody else."

In his journal, Sowder wrote several ideas to later develop in a book.

"What's my purpose? I try not to pretend I know, but it has something to do with helping people find God and be content," Sowder wrote. "Help them realize what is important in their lives and remember that our free will created this world. God still calls us home, like a parent who misses his child. We are so weak and feeble, easily amused and frustrated by simple pleasures. You haven't known happiness until you give your life to God."

 

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Rare cancer claims a promising life

IU student Craig Sowder, 20, a high achiever in high school, had hoped to enter seminary.

The Indianapolis Star

        CARMEL, Ind. -- "I believe God chose Craig to come into this world to make a difference," Jill Sowder said Wednesday of her 20-year-old son.

"And by giving him such a short time on this earth, that got people's attention. A short life gets people's attention."

        Craig Sowder died Monday night of a rare form of cancer in his heart and lungs.

"Cardiac angiosarcoma," his mother said, spitting out the words as though speaking the name of a vile and bitter enemy. "It's awful stuff. What I've seen and read, it eats people up. It's just so aggressive, and they cannot stop it."

        Cardiac angiosarcoma occurs in only one out of every 100,000 people, Jill Sowder said.

"It's not a 'popular' cancer," she said. "Sarcomas are so rare, they don't get the press, and they don't get the money for research. When people get sarcoma, more than not, they die from it quickly. There are very few drugs to treat it. That is what my life's work will be from now on, to make people aware of sarcoma.

        "I promised Craig the other day: I will fight so hard to get rid of sarcoma because I can't let any other mother go through what I'm going through. I had a wonderful son, and I lost him to this stupid disease."
 

        Sowder had been vice president of his junior and senior classes at Carmel High School.

"Coaches and teachers just gravitated to him," his mother recalled. "They knew they could always count on him to do what he was supposed to do. And his humor -- he was very witty. He had a sense of humor way beyond his years."

        Typical of his offbeat sense of humor, Sowder helped form and was president of the Big Eaters Club. "It was just a group of big guys who were big eaters and who'd have cookouts or go to restaurants," his mother explained.

        Sowder graduated from Carmel in 1998. That August, he entered Indiana University, with plans to become a high school English or history teacher. After the men's fall rush his freshman year, he joined Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity and was his pledge class president.

But the next spring, Sowder started experiencing pressure in his chest and shortness of breath. One day, while carrying his laundry downstairs, he passed out. His roommates took him to Bloomington Hospital.

        "They found a mass," his mother said. "I hate that word, 'mass.' "

        On April 1, 1999, he underwent open heart surgery at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis. The surgeon found a tumor on the right atrium of his heart.

        "He removed what he could, but unfortunately, it was in the wall of the heart," Jill Sowder said.

        Craig went to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center for Sarcoma Research in Houston, a leading cancer hospital and one of the few cancer centers in the world with sarcoma specialists, his mother said. After six months of treatment there, his scans came back clear, his mother said.

Sowder returned to classes at IU last fall, but with a new outlook and a new direction.

        "He wanted to go to seminary," his mother said. "He knew he needed to help people. He said, 'Mom, I've been through the fire and that will help me empathize with people. I don't want to be a pastor in a church. I know I can help people by working at a hospital or in the Peace Corps or something along that line.' That's what he wanted to do."

        She said, "One day, Craig told his grandma: 'Don't sweat the small stuff.' So, my mother's going around telling her senior citizen friends that: Don't sweat the small stuff."

        During a checkup in Houston in January, doctors discovered the cancer had resumed its relentless attack.

        Besides his mother, Sowder is survived by his father, Richard, and his brother, Matt, 17, a junior at Carmel High.

        "We're all three different people than a year ago," Jill Sowder said. "Craig has changed lives, and he continues to change lives and I think that was the purpose of this.

        "I was blessed, and I thank God every day of my life that I was chosen to be Craig's mother. To be the mother of someone so special lets me know God thinks I'm special, too."

        In the end, Jill Sowder told her oldest son: "I'm so thankful I was the one to give birth to you and to love you every day of your life and to give you the free will to be who you wanted to be."

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Running for a pal, and to beat a disease

The Indianapolis Star

        CARMEL, Ind. -- When 22,500 runners step off at 9:03 a.m. May 6 for the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, an admittedly out-of-condition Tina Ziegler plans to be among them.

        Ziegler, 19, a second-year history major at Indiana University, said she hasn't run competitively since she was a sophomore on the track team at Carmel High School.

        "I got to college, and I got really lazy," Ziegler said, poking fun at herself. "I hope it (the half marathon) goes until 9 o'clock at night so I can cross the finish line. And I'm going to finish this race for him."

        "Him" is longtime pal and fellow IU student Craig Sowder. Sowder, 20, died April 10 of cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare cancer of the heart.

        The day Sowder died was the registration deadline for the mini-marathon. Race organizers extended the deadline so Ziegler could run to raise money for the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center for Sarcoma Research in Houston.

        Sowder spent six months at the center being treated for his illness.

        Ziegler and her friends have been busy reading up on sarcoma and writing and distributing letters seeking pledges for her run.

        Ziegler visited Sowder at his home in Carmel two days before he died.

"The last time I saw him, I walked into his room and we were sitting there, talking about regular things, then I just started crying because he kept coughing and was not doing as well as he had been the last time I saw him," Ziegler said.

        "Craig tried to stand up and give me a hug. He was holding my hand and telling me he was fine. All he wanted to do was make sure I was OK.

        "Craig still gets to help people. He made all of us want to help other people. He was one of the best people I ever met in my life. He could make me laugh. He made me feel so good about myself. All he wanted was to help people."

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Carmel alumnus touched the lives of many

Friends, family reflect on life of Craig Sowder ‘98

By Lindsey Wielgos

HiLite, April 27, 2000

 

In a school with more than 3,000 students, it may prove difficult for one to make a life-altering difference in another’s life, let alone spark a change in every person he touches.  But talk to someone who knew Craig Sowder ’98, and most likely, he’ll have a story to tell.

          Craig died April 10 of what is known as the rarest, most-aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma.  Beginning in his heart, the cancer spread to his lungs, a condition that causes fatality in most known cases.  After reoccurring chest pressure and shortness of breath beginning in March of ’99, a time in which he was enrolled at Indiana University, Craig came home to undergo open-heart surgery to identify his illness.  To everyone’s dismay, the diagnosis was a type of cancer that effects only .001 percent of the population.  For the next year, CAT scans, MRIs and intense chemotherapy at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston haunted the family as everyone prayed for a miracle.  Mrs. Cheryl Pilkinton, advanced composition teacher and close friend of Craig’s, visited him at the hospital in Houston over the summer during a trip to see her son.  The two kept in contact with each other through e-mail.  “When I went to visit Craig at the hospital in Houston, I really did think that a miracle was going to occur.  It’s hard to believe I won’t get another e-mail from him.”

          Pilkinton recalled Craig’s zest for life he displayed in her class.  “He had a wonderful, droll sense of humor.  Always when he would come in (to the room), even on a bad day, he would probably smile.  I really loved him.”

          Craig’s mother, Mrs. Jill Sowder, agreed that, in her eyes, one of her son’s greatest accomplishments existed of an ability to make others happy and make those around him laugh.

          “He knew how to bring a smile to people’s faces,” she said, “He knew how to speak to people and treat everyone equally.  It was obvious his purpose on Earth was to help others, and almost all who knew Craig said he changed their life.”

          “He was one of the few people that listens,” Pilkinton added.  “He was a good listener, so even people he barely knew poured their hearts out to him.  Many times we are more helpful if we just listen; he had that ability.”

 

Feeling the illness

This January Craig flew to Houston for a check-up MRI and CAT scan.  He had been coughing up blood for the past month and said deep down he knew the cancer was back.  Near the end of March, doctors told Mrs. Sowder her son had days to live, so they decided to bring him home.

          Matt Sowder, Craig’s younger brother and junior, said when he first heard his only sibling had just a few more days to live, the first thing that crossed his mind was, “What is Craig thinking?”

          “I wanted to know what his thoughts were and what he was doing.  Basically, I just wanted to be there,” he said.  In the end, Craig was blessed with two and a half weeks longer than doctors had predicted.

          “There’s going to be times throughout my whole life,” Matt said, “when I’m going to wish I had one more day.  I kept thinking, ‘Here I am, and I just don’t know what to do.’  I felt helpless.”

          Two weeks ago, Craig made a list of people he wanted to see, including English teacher Mr. Doug Estell, social studies teacher Mr. John Herbert and Pilkinton.  Each, he said, had made a difference to him during school.

          “He probably has touched my life a lot more than I’ve touched his,” Pilkinton said.  “He truly enriched my life, and I don’t think I could give him a higher compliment than the fact that he is the reason we continue teaching.  It’s students like Craig.”

         

 

Finding the faith

Anyone who knew Craig knew his illness changed him.  “Once he became sick and had to face his own mortality, he established a mature relationship with God that was wise beyond his years,” Mrs. Sowder said.  “This was amazing to watch because he wasn’t the type of kid who was raised by the Bible.”

          Craig planned to attend seminary school with his friend, George Helmbock ’98, after finishing his English degree at IU.  The two had beliefs that focused on a “church without walls,” love and acceptance.

          “Craig became very introspective toward the end.  After his illness, he started looking to see what made him tick as an individual.  You could truly see a transformation,” Pilkinton said.

          His mother said she now has come to realize how her son touched so many people across the world.  Mrs. Sowder said that when someone tells a story about Craig, it simply goes and goes.  Almost everyone knows a story involving football or stories from when he was Junior and Senior Class vice president.  One story most remembered is that of the Big Eaters Club, a group Craig started with a couple of friends who went to restaurants eating large meals at discount prices.

          “I am sure that all the guys at CHS can thank Craig, because when he was a senior, he petitioned and eventually got doors put on the stalls in all the boys’ bathrooms,” Mrs. Sowder said.

 

Crowding around

On April 13 and 14, the showing at Flanner and Buchanan Carmel Mortuary resulted in a turnout greater than anyone was prepared for.  “Apparently he had an impact, because the lines at the funeral showing were unending,” Pilkinton said.  Almost the entire football team, dressed in their jerseys, and members of the track and baseball teams came to support the Sowders.

          “During this whole time,” Mrs. Sowder said, “I have really tried to let Matt know that I love him.  I thank God for his great group of friends and people who care because I know a lot of people are hurting from this loss.”

          Matt said none of his friends knew Craig, with the exception of one, so he asked them to come to the funeral to learn about him.  “It’s hard to be around family, and it’s hard to be around the house right now, so I’ve been going to track meets and running, which helps me clear my head.  I’ve tried to hang around people as much as I can and get out of (the house) as much as possible.”

          His mother said she is sad because, as Matt grows into a man, he won’t have his brother to guide him.  However, she remembers how very proud Craig was of Matt.  In return, Matt remembers one of his proudest moments to be the time when Craig gave his speech at graduation and told the entire class to “Turn your tassels.”

          “That made me want to run for vice president and follow in his footsteps,”  Matt said.

          With their health in mind, the Sowder family left last week for Florida and a chance to escape from a place where memories lie around every corner.  “My sons were the most important thing in the world to me—and still are,” Mrs. Sowder said.  “This has really taught us a lot, if nothing else, how to help others grieve.  I know now that we all have an angel watching us.”

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Students run to remember friend
by Rebekah Carpenter
Indiana Daily Student
Published Friday, October 13, 2000

For many participating in Saturday's Hoosiers Outrun Cancer, the event offers a chance to get together with friends and family to celebrate the life of a former IU student who lost his battle with cancer in April.

Craig Sowder had been at IU for two years before he died of angiosarcoma six months ago. During his time in Bloomington he made a lasting impact on those he met.

Sophomore Greg McQuade is one of those people Sowder touched.

"He was a tremendous person, one of the best I've ever met," McQuade said. "He loved everything and everybody."

McQuade, along with Jill Sowder, Craig's mother, have organized a group to walk in the 5K portion of Hoosiers Outrun Cancer in memory of Sowder.

Sowder became a member of Alpha Sigma Phi and McQuade expects several of his brothers to participate, as well as Sowder's family and friends from home.

Craig's Story

Craig Sowder came to IU in the fall of 1998 from Carmel, Ind. He joined Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity and became known as "Donut" because of a stone he wore on a hemp necklace -- a stone that was perfectly round with a hole in the center.

In March of 1999, Sowder noticed a pressure in his chest, and that he was sometimes short of breath. One day he was rushed to the hospital after passing out, and doctors drained three liters of fluid from his pericardium, the heart's protective covering. He went to St. Vincent's Hospital in Indianapolis, where open-heart surgery revealed the dark nature of Sowder's illness -- cancer.

The doctors found a tumor on his right atrium, and he was diagnosed with cardiac angiosarcoma -- cancer in his heart that had spread to his lungs. It is a rare and highly aggressive form of cancer, affecting only .001 percent of the population.

The hospital in Indianapolis couldn't properly treat Sowder's cancer, so he went to Houston's MD Anderson Cancer Center for chemotherapy. After six months of treatment the cancer appeared to be gone, Sowder returned to Carmel to rest and prepare for classes at IU. He was looking forward to getting into a routine that didn't center on his cancer or hospitals.

But Sowder's new routine did not last long. In December of 1999 he began coughing up blood; a trip to Houston for a check-up in January revealed that the cancer was back, and Sowder didn't have much time left. He returned to Indiana to be near family and friends, knowing his time was short. April 10, four months after the new diagnosis, Sowder died.

Remembering Donut

It has been six months since Sowder died, and his mother admits she misses him every day.

"He passed on six months ago yesterday," Jill Sowder said Wednesday. "His brother and I took the day off, and went to have lunch in Craig's favorite restaurant."

Jill Sowder said she hopes to see all of her son's friends Saturday.

"We should have a big sign that says 'Team4Sowder' so we can all gather and walk together," she said.

Sowder's mother remembers him as the kind of person who, if the situation had been reversed, would have been very vocal in organizing this kind of reunion for a friend who had passed on.

"If this was different and Craig was still here, he would be very vocal and diligent in the cause, he would be so adamant about everyone coming out as a group to help out," she said. "He believed in helping others, and would have been so frustrated by people who didn't take the time to help."

McQuade said he would like people to remember Sowder by his nickname, Donut.

"Someone with a name like that is just very approachable and gives himself to everyone. It's a happy name to have," McQuade said. "He was a happy, admirable person. A lot of people could look up to him."

McQuade hopes as the race ends people come away feeling very emotional.

"I hope they remember what happened to Craig, and how he affected their lives," he said. "I hope that everyone feels great about participating in something like this."

Fellow Alpha Sig Jason Boumstein, a senior, echoed McQuade's sentiments. "I hope everyone just remembers Craig and what a great guy he was," Boumstein said. "We should never let him leave our minds."

When asked how she would want her son remembered, Jill Sowder was silent for a moment, and then said quietly, "definitely as a good friend, very loyal and fun-loving. He just didn't know how wonderful he was."

"Craig would want us to do this with him if he were still here," McQuade said.

The events Saturday begin with registration at 8:30 a.m. and opening ceremonies at 10:15. Those who want to participate with Sowder's group should look for the "Team4Sowder" sign.

 

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