Jenn Aldrich has been a member at Badger since 2013. As we bring awareness to childhood cancer, we wanted to highlight her son, Jake, and their family’s struggle and strength firsthand. Here is her story:
Jake was an innocent, superhero loving and Lego playing four-year when cancer entered his life. One evening, during bath time, a lump was discovered in his testicle. The pediatrician initially thought it was a hydrocele (fluid filled pocket), however with additional testing it was determined to be a tumor.
November 2005, Jake underwent a left radical orchiectomy at which time a ‘cancerous’ tumor was removed. We were stunned and in shock, to say the least. How could our healthy 4 year old boy have cancer?
After a long day of CT scans, bone scan, bone marrow biopsy and chest x-ray, it was determined that the ‘cancer’ had spread to his lungs and bone marrow. On this day we were told of Jake’s diagnosis. Stage 4 rhabdomyosarcoma with a five-year survival rate of 70%.
Jake’s little body endured 52 weeks of chemotherapy (combination of 3 drugs), many overnight stays, hundred of needle pokes and multiple blood transfusions. Other than being bald, you might not have known what Jake was going through. He handled the chemo pretty well and still had energy most days to attend school or play.
He went into his first remission September 2006. Over the next six months Jake enjoyed swimming, baseball and traveling for his Make-A- Wish to Disney. He enjoyed being a ‘regular” kid. Our hopes were very high that he had beat cancer.
In January 2007 we found out we were pregnant. We were elated the cancer was in remission and our family was growing. The feeling was short live however, as Jake’s cancer had returned in his lungs. His remission only lasted six, short months.
This 2 nd time around Jake underwent 50 weeks of chemotherapy (combination of six drugs) and radiation to the lungs. At that point we did our best not to focus on numbers or survival rates….only the fact that he was receiving the best treatment available at that moment and we had faith he would recover and go into remission. Chemo, hospitals, and blood draws were now a “normal” routine for us.
In September 2008, after a three month remission, Jake relapsed again. The cancer has returned in his lungs and started growing in his abdomen. He underwent surgery and tried oral chemotherapy to keep the cancer at bay, however it continued to grow.
February 2009, after 35 days in the hospital, we made the very difficult decision to stop all treatment. We were out of options. As parents, we felt like failures. We could not save our son’s life.
We brought Jake home and enjoyed every possible minute with him. Building Legos, watching Batman cartoons, and sharing funny stories until he was no longer awake. For a few days, we just held him…. loving him, until he passed on March 24, 2009. Jake lost his long, courageous 3.5-year fight with cancer.
Cancer took away my first born, my flesh and blood. I didn’t think I was going to be able to live without him, but I had to. There was his 18-month-old sister Avery to care for. She was my light in the darkest days.
It’s been 8 years since Jake’s passing and I never thought I’d get here. We promised Jake we would do our best to live our lives to the fullest, to share his story and keep his memory alive. This has been and is still a struggle on some days. Over the years we’ve become more involved in giving back to the community that took care of us during his treatment. We support the Blood Center of WI by sponsoring five blood drives every year, we form an annual team
(Jakob’s Ladder) for the Brigg’s and Al’s Run to support Children’s Hospital, we fundraise for Make-A- Wish and Alex’s Lemonade Stand and Avery and I volunteer with Kyle’s Korner, a grief center for children.
Our involvement not only supports others, but is part of the healing process for ourselves. Jake will always be on our hearts and we will continue to share his story. Thank you for this opportunity to share it with you.