Some kids fight cancer and beat it, they want to meet the hippest musician or maybe hang with a member of the Chicago Bears. Not Rock Hill's Drew Howington.
He wanted to hunt bears.
At 14, Drew is such a tough outdoorsman that when he was 8 years old and taking chemotherapy after a 6-pound tumor was taken from him body, he dropped his motorcycle in a creek. The bike dropped on his leg, breaking it.
He didn't even miss school that time, let alone chemotherapy.
In his third-grade year, Drew was diagnosed with a childhood cancer of the renal system. A tumor that weighed more than 10 percent of his body weight was removed with his right kidney. He underwent radiation, chemo, and toughed it out.
When other people would see his hair almost gone or see how skinny he got, Drew wouldn't even admit he had cancer.
"No big deal," he'd say.
He still is tested annually, but his parents, LeeAnn and Marty Howington, say Drew is cancer-free.
But because Drew has just one kidney, he can't play football or wrestling or other contact sports. But he has fished since he was old enough to hold a pole, and he rides four-wheelers. He took his first deer two years ago, and got the blood rubbed on his face, like hunters do.
Drew got a chance to go bear hunting -- undoubtedly rare for any teen, let alone somebody with only one kidney -- because of a group called Outdoor Dreams. Similar to the Make A Wish program, which grants wishes to cancer kids who have hopes like shopping sprees or trips to Disneyworld, the outdoor program takes kids with an affinity for the outdoors to a place no tourist attraction can match.
LeeAnn Howington never even considered saying no.
"You have to let him be a boy," she said.
Marty Howington, who always fished with his son, took up hunting because his son loved it. Marty loved the idea of the bear hunt: He went, too.
He went even though he was set for surgery on his right kidney just days later due to cancer, although a different type than Drew had. Marty said he's better now, too.
He'll do just about anything
In the Howington house, you live every day like it might be your last. Other than roller coasters and flying in airplanes, Drew said he will do just about anything.
So father and son made their way about a month ago to Washington, N.C. In the woods, dogs were let loose and a black bear was treed. Drew and others in the hunting party got up close, about 15 feet away. Then the bear climbed out of the tree onto the ground in about a half a second.
"The only time I was scared was then," admitted Drew. "He was bigger on the ground."
The bear took off and was treed again. That time, the bear didn't come down until Drew brought him down with the third shot.
The bear meat, the Howington men have that in the freezer. Marty and Drew Howington said it tastes like deer meat. I took their word for it.
The pelt is going to be a rug.
Anybody who wants to learn a little bit about living life, instead of watching it go by, should meet this kid. He's 5 feet 9 inches tall, 120 pounds, and doesn't dwell on how he had to fight for his life. He just lives.
At 14, he said bear hunting is the coolest thing he's done.
And yes, just like in deer hunting, the first time a hunter takes a bear, the blood is rubbed on your face for good luck. Drew Howington got his blood rub, and he deserves that good luck.