Jacob Bredenhof, an all-star basketball player in his elementary school, was supposed to be going into high school this year.
Instead, he’s in the B.C. Children’s Hospital, recovering from his sixth round of chemotherapy and expected to undergo surgery to amputate part of his leg as part of a complicated procedure early next month.
Jacob was able to speak to The News briefly over the phone, and his diminished strength was apparent. His mother, Tracey, called him “a man of few words” during chemo, but he was able to say that he was looking forward to recovering and that he was doing all right.
Jacob’s family will be doing this year’s local Terry Fox Run in the 13-year-old boy’s name after he was diagnosed this spring with osteosarcoma, the same type of cancer that Fox faced nearly 40 years ago. With a goal of raising $5,000 for sarcoma and pediatric cancers, the Bredenhofs’ team has already tallied $7,000.
Jacob first complained of knee pain in April this year, according to Tracey, who said Jacob’s doctor initially diagnosed it as a sports injury in early May. But a few weeks later, she said the family noticed a hard mass just above his knee, taking them on a painful journey.
“When I felt the mass, I knew something serious was happening, because it wasn’t like your typical inflammation. It was rock hard,” Tracey said in a phone interview from the hospital.
They took Jacob back to the doctor, and got some blood work and X-rays done, but “I could just tell in [the doctor’s] eyes and hear in his voice that it was bad,” Tracey said.
Four hours later, she got a call from the doctor’s office telling her she needed to come back to the doctor’s office immediately and suggested she bring her husband along.
“Instantly, it was like you’re hit by a truck.”
The chemo helps to keep the cancer from spreading, but to actually get rid of the aggressive cancer a rare surgery — called a rotationplasty — will be required.
That surgery involves removing Jacob’s knee and a large part of his femur, and attaching his calf muscle to the remaining femur. In the process, his foot will be turned around to face backwards, with the ankle ultimately act as a knee for a partial prosthetic leg and foot.
“Part of this will be to get some awareness out there about this surgery, because it looks fairly bizarre,” Tracey said.
Despite that, though, the surgery offers the best chance of Jacob staying active, with the other alternative leaving him with metal joints rather than the natural ankle joint.
Tracey said Jacob intends to get back into basketball when he recovers — which will likely take around a year, as the tibia fuses to his femur. All the while, Jacob will undergo another 12 rounds of chemotherapy, slowing down the healing process.
“He’s been really brave through all this. He’s actually never complained once about anything. He’s never been angry; he’s just accepted it,” Tracey said.
“He’s a pretty strong kid. He’s 13, but quite mature for his age. We’re just trying to get through this round of chemo, and then we’ll have to really start processing the amputation … Every round [of chemo] seems to bring new challenges.”
During Jacob’s stay at the hospital, Tracey said she’s seen unwavering support from family and friends, between Jacob’s grandparents taking care of his siblings much of the summer and the money raised for their Terry Fox Run team.
“We are thrilled with the response, so far. Just our community support, our church support has been amazing and overwhelming. There’s a lot of people behind this. … There hasn’t been a day where we’ve felt alone,” Tracey said.
“I think I’ve only cooked a couple meals myself in the last couple months, so the meals keep coming in.”
At the Terry Fox Run, Tracey said the family will be wearing shirts with colours to support sarcoma and pediatric cancers, with the words “Jacob’s team” on them. To support the team, go to their page on the Terry Fox Run website or check out their Facebook page.