Jake, one of my son's classmates, continues his fight against cancer. Please pray for this little boy and his family. If you'd like to learn more about Jake, you can follow his story at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/jake
Aidan and Jake--March 7, 2009
The following was taken from an article published in Wauwatosa Now:
As 7-year-old Jakob Aldrich plays with Legos at his dining room table, he talks about his love for Indiana Jones, Star Wars, video games and popcorn - every topic is up for conversation, except the one that has been at the forefront of his family's mind for the past month: his illness.
Ask him about anything related to cancer or hospitalization and he will likely perform that Jedi mind trick in which a child pretends he has not heard a word and instead embarks on another topic like who is more powerful, the evil Darth Vader or the wise Yoda.
Jakob's mother, Jennifer Aldrich, is not surprised by his adversity to discuss his health: "He's tired of listening to adults talk about him."
Battery of treatments
In November 2005, Jakob was diagnosed with stage 4 rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of childhood cancer that is best described as soft-tissue cancer.
Since then, he has endured a rollercoaster of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, followed by periods of remission. But in September, the cancer returned for a third time, and because his body stopped responding to the treatment regimen, he spent all of February at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.
"I've never been so scared in my life as I was a few weeks ago," his mother said. "To see him in that much pain and the fear in his eyes was horrible."
He endured two abdominal surgeries to remove tumors from his digestive track, started a new round of chemotherapy and suffered numerous complications that required medications and transfusions to build up his system.
Good guys vs. bad guys
"It was only in the last year that he learned of the word cancer," Jennifer said. "We use the words good guys and bad guys to explain it. The good guys are down there but they could use a little help fighting off some of these bad guys."
Now that the hospital released him, Jakob has an ileostomy bag that empties waste directly from his small intestine, IV nutrition until his appetite perks up and more drugs to deal with side effects.
The rollercoaster is on its way back up as doctors have seen a decrease in the cancer in his lungs, Jennifer said.
The reality is that odds of a cure continue to diminish for Jakob, while his family's hope remains fierce that a treatment will become available.
Fundraiser to help with bills
Until now, the Aldrichs have turned down offers of financial assistance instead taking friends and family up on home-cooked meals and help with caring for their 18-month-old daughter, Avery. But this latest setback in Jakob's health has caused them to take time off work. Jakob will need home nursing assistance and, if the disease progresses, the family may have to look outside Wisconsin for treatment.
Family friends have organized a fundraising benefit as a way to help in the fight against a disease that has left everyone close to the family feeling pretty helpless, Amy Gill said.
The Gills have taken many family trips with the Aldrichs and as a mother, Gill said her heart breaks thinking about watching a child go through this kind of pain. She hopes to raise at least $30,000 to help the family out with their bills.
The event will feature children's activities like face painting and cookie decorating, performances by three local bands, a cash bar and silent auction and raffles.
Jakob's anxiously waiting for the benefit, an activity he sees as reward for getting well enough to leave the hospital.
"I can't wait," he said. "My friends will be there. I want everyone to be there. Tell everyone they're invited to my party."
It was a great party, indeed. I'm so glad that we were a part of it.