During the week of March 10, 2014 through March 16, 2014, Pizza Bella will donate a portion of sales to help Jake win his fight. The Dine & Share will take place the entire week for lunch and or dinner.
Jake’s Story… Our entire world was turned upside down 14 months ago when we learned that our healthy, athletic, 15 year old son Jake had a hemorrhaging brain tumor. Leading up to that life changing day, Jake had only complained of persistent headaches for just a few weeks for which he was given antibiotics by his pediatrician.. When the headaches didn’t resolve, we decided to take Jake back to the doctor and insist on an MRI. A couple of days later on a typical Saturday afternoon, we stopped at the MRI clinic on the way to Jake’s Fremd High School basketball game. The season had just started and Jake was voted team captain by his peers. He was very excited to play that day and was humoring his mother by agreeing to the MRI in order to get me to stop worrying. Everything changed the moment 4 radiologists at the MRI clinic rushed out urging me to take Jake immediately to the closest Emergency Room. Jake had a hemorrhaging 3cm tumor in the back of his brain. All of a parent’s worst fears were realized in that moment. I was scared, confused and shocked as I looked into the eyes of my 15 year old son and knew it was critical to get him help yet stay calm and not break down in front of him. A craniotomy was performed two days later at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago and Jake did as well as can be expected. He was in a great deal of pain after the surgery but kept his pain to himself. The neurosurgeon felt confident that he removed all of the brain tumor and that it was likely benign. Unfortunately, a few weeks later pathology revealed otherwise. Because the tumor was metastatic it was eventually determined that Jake’s cancer had originated from his lung and then spread to his brain. I was in shock as my baby was officially diagnosed with Stage IV Alk mutant adnocarcinoma. We have been told by the best doctors in the country that metastatic lung cancer in kids is extremely rare and that Jake is the youngest child they know of in the U.S. currently being treated for this disease. Needless to say, Jake does not smoke, nor has anyone EVER smoked in our family or even around Jake. We will never understand how this happened. Our family has been through 14 emotional and difficult months, yet Jake continues to stay strong and live his life as a normal teenager. He is an inspiration to everyone who watches him and knows him. As a sophomore in high school he continues to play basketball and baseball. He has had 5 rounds of radiation to the cerebellum where the tumor was resected, several surgical procedures, and numerous PET scans, MRI’s, and blood labs. To all that know him and see him every day he looks and behaves like a normal teenage boy. Unfortunately, behind the scenes he is now a 16 year old boy with a world class team of doctors that are fighting to save his life. Still Jake never complains, and continues to keep our family strong with his amazing brave attitude and strength. His older brothers Jon and Luc now look up to him, their baby brother, as a warrior and a fighter! The next steps for Jake will require an extended stay at the renowned University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Jake will receive a very specialized treatment of proton radiation therapy and intravenous Chemotherapy for four months. The treatment is intense and will be grueling but is what the doctors feel is necessary for Jake’s long term health. We are inspired by the reputation, experience and attitude of the doctors at MD Anderson. They have told us they are “going for the cure” with this plan and Marc and I will do whatever it takes – including moving to Texas for two months – to make sure that Jake receives this treatment. Nothing else in our lives matters but saving Jake’s life. As small business owners, Marc and I have definitely felt the impact of the last few years – none of which seems to mean anything now that we are laser focused on Jake’s recovery. That combined with the volume of medical procedures, a high insurance deductible, and costly travel expenses has created financial pressure on our family at a time when we need financial resources to save our sons life. We are grateful to the close friends that have been such a great source of emotional support. We are humbled by your love and desire to be a part of TEAM JAKE, and help us get him to Texas to SAVE HIS LIFE. Jake does not like to discuss his illness and desperately wants to be treated like one of the guys. As you can imagine, his mental health is critical to his recovery. Please help us by treating him like any other 16 year old boy and not making the focus of his life conversations about his health. Please keep Jake in your thoughts and continue to pray for his recovery.
Liz & Marc LaGasse