WWE meet and greet a welcome distraction from 6-year-old’s real-life fight outside of the ring
By Adrian McMorris | June 19, 2019
Celebrating her sixth birthday, wearing a bright pink jacket and black hat, arms linked with her siblings beside her, Drea nervously watches the door backstage at Bell MTS Place.
The WWE show is starting in one hour and she’s waiting to see which professional wrestler she’s about to meet.
Her mom says Drea is constantly watching and practicing wrestling at home, but she’s never actually met a wrestler in person.
Drea is rapidly listing off all the wrestlers who are performing and then lists them in order of who she hopes she’ll meet.
“What if it’s Seth Rollins? What if it’s Samoa Joe? Do you think it’ll be Alexa Bliss?”
Her left arm slightly tightens on her brother’s right arm, either in excitement or nervousness.
As the door opens, Drea’s eyes dart to see Alexa Bliss walk into the room. Drea’s hand covers her mouth and for the first time in half an hour, she doesn’t say a word.
She nervously gets off the couch, Bliss kneels to hug her and tells Drea she loves her new jacket.
Drea hands Bliss a WWE Championship belt for her to sign and timidly thanks her. While Bliss talks with Drea’s family, Drea quietly stares in awe.
If you meet Drea, you would have no idea she is fighting for her life. She runs around, lights up a room with her smile, cracks jokes with her family and above all else, she loves wrestling.
Mandy Pepe and her husband say around Christmas of 2018, they noticed changes in Drea.
“She wasn’t walking straight, she was dizzy and we knew something was wrong.”
She was nauseous all the time and after a CT Scan in January, Mandy’s worst fear was confirmed. At five-years-old, Drea was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma group 3, a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer.
Mandy says Drea hasn’t let rounds of chemotherapy get her down.
“She’s a little less energetic than before obviously but she’s always making the best of a bad situation. She’s just a kid and she doesn’t quite understand all the medications and surgeries but she’s battling and pushing through.”
According to her mom, the second Drea gets out of bed, she puts herself in front of the television and watches her favourite wrestlers walk into the ring and dive at each other from the top ropes.
“In our house it’s on 24/7. It started with the Divas but now she loves all of them.”
Drea knows every wrestler’s name, their moves and she even practices some moves with her siblings.
According to Mandy, when Drea found out she was actually going to meet a wrestler, it brought out something in her daughter she hadn’t seen, or heard, in a long time.
“She was so excited. She let out the girly, high-pitched scream that I haven’t heard in months. You could feel the energy come into her.”
As Bliss leaves to go get ready for her match, she hugs Drea again, and tells her she’ll look for her in the audience.
“It won’t be hard to spot you with that awesome pink jacket. And maybe one day we’ll be in the ring together.”
Drea buries her head in the back of the couch, too excited to say anything. She looks at the signature on her belt, runs to hug her parents and tells them she loves them.
As the Pepe family makes their way to their seats, Drea bounces in her dad’s arms as they go up the stairs together.
Drea is going to have another operation in a couple of days and she’ll continue to fight. She might lose more of her hair and she might feel nauseous but right now she isn’t worried about any of that.
Right now she’s on top of the world, cheering for Bliss, while everyone else is cheering for Drea.