When Jacob was eight years old, we noticed his hand-eye coordination was off a little bit, and sometimes just his left leg would shake. One day he was swimming at my brother’s house, and while he was holding onto the side of the pool and kicking his feet, they kept getting tangled up like he didn’t have control over them. On August 9, 2011, we took him to the doctor’s office where they did hand-eye coordination tests, and they found he had very little strength on his left side. They did an MRI at Genesis, and found that Jacob had a mass in his brain. We went to the University of Iowa Hospitals that same day, where they did more MRI’s. The neurosurgeon met with us and told us that Jacob had a Bilateral Thalamic Anaplastic Astrocytoma, which is a malignant brain tumor.
Jacob needed surgery to relieve pressure on his brain, and they took a small sample of the tumor while he was in surgery. The doctors said he had about 18 months to live. We were given some chemotherapy options, and ended up starting him on a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. For a little while, Jacob seemed to be recovering somewhat. However, towards the end of summer and the first part of fall in 2012, he had another MRI done at the University of Iowa Hospitals and they said his tumor was growing and they didn’t have any treatments that would stop the growth. They suggested a clinical drug trial, in which Jacob was eligible to participate. He immediately began taking the drug, but around Christmas 2012 the doctors said the medication wasn’t working and his tumor was still growing.
Jacob passed away on February 17, 2013, just shy of his 10th birthday.
He was a fun and very sweet little boy, and was a great brother. He had an amazing smile, and he was a kid who would do anything for anybody. He never became upset about his situation. Not once did he complain and he never asked, “Why did this happen to me?” Even when he was severely sick, he always had a smile, and he just wanted to get better and go back to school.
I want people to realize that kids’ chances of surviving cancer aren’t as good as adults. We need more research into treatment options and awareness about childhood cancers. I also want people to know the importance of donating blood. Jacob received platelets twice and a red blood cell transfusion during his treatment, and we’re grateful for those who donated.