When he opened the box from a former teacher, Jacob discovered the hat inside had a hole. A note was pinned to the gift, along with a second (intact) hat: “To keep your head warm while you don’t have hair, but the dog got a hold of it. Sorry!”
A chewed-up hat and a hand-written note might not seem like much, but Jacob wouldn’t have it any other way. They are humble offerings reflective of the humble gifts Jacob gives those around him every day. As Jacob retells this story, his family is gathered around the table, laughing and remembering this smooth segment of their otherwise rough road in 2015.
He’s 17 now, six months after his final round of chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He has experienced more hardship than most in a lifetime. Yet, Jacob only muses about those moments of joy – the comically horrendous hospital food and sneaking in fried chicken, the shirt they printed for him inscribed with the words “Heart of the lion,” the music video he filmed at Randall Children’s Hospital, or the hat with a hole.
Jacob’s calm, positive outlook throughout treatment was an inspiration not just to his family and church, but to the community of Forest Grove. Just days before he was diagnosed with cancer, he had difficulty breathing. Still, Jacob participated in the district track meet so his team wouldn’t be disqualified. It’s a testament to the kind of compassion he’s always had.
“It’s out of our control,” he told his mother on the day he was diagnosed, “It’s in God’s hands now.”
That was the tone that Jacob set from the beginning and has continued to lead by example. Grounded in a sense of new purpose and wisdom (“If I get angry, how would it help me beat this?”), Jacob became the emotional champion for his family even in the time of struggle.
Motivated by his son’s perspective, his father conquered a life-long dream of reading the Bible cover-to-cover. Motivated by his perseverance, his sister ran harder at collegiate track events because Jacob couldn’t. Motivated by his strength, the family became closer, letting go of petty fights, coming together every weekend to see Jacob and give the parents a much-needed break.
Against all odds, Jacob’s spirit soars even higher than it did a year ago, and he uses that spirit to guide others. He learned magic tricks at the hospital and visited every child’s room to teach them. He once dressed up as singer Macklemore and danced down the hallway, IV drip and all, just to make people smile.
When it came time for Make-A-Wish Oregon to give something special for a teenager whose altruism has already made so many other wishes come true, it was only fitting to grant such a leader with an appropriate chariot – a new dirt bike. With it, Jacob has been able to continue fighting - only now it’s the outdoors instead of cancer. He’s been able to use his bike as a vehicle (pun intended) for positive influence on his family and best friend, Isaac. Biking around the backwoods and amateur tracks, nobody can believe that the guy taking off his carbon fiber helmet, covered in dirt and smiling from ear to ear had a tumor near his heart less than a year ago. His family and friends say he’s a true inspiration to not let any obstacle, big or small, dirt hill or operating table, slow them down. For Jacob, any rough road is no match for a dirt bike.