14-year-old Jacob had to undergo a rare surgery that has now enabled him to use his foot as a knee after he lost most of his leg to a rare form of cancer.
We tend to take a lot for granted in our everyday lives. From waking up in the morning to picking up a glass of water, when you stop to think about it, even the smallest things in life are nothing short of a miracle. It is only when the universe sends a curve ball our way, hitting us or one of our dear ones, that we truly appreciate these things. However, the leaps and bounds we've come in terms of medical research and technology, now give us the opportunity to enjoy a second lease in life. No one would agree more with this than 14-year-old Jacob Bredenhof and his mom Tracey.
Jacob was just like every other teenager out there, playing basketball, running around with his three younger brothers, and helping his parents out at their family's farm. He was at that point in life where boys go through their insane growth spurt right in front of your eyes. Hence, when the teen began experiencing pain in his left knee, even his doctor thought it was just the aches and pains of a typical, active teenage boy. No one expected it to be a large, solid mass that would leave Bredenhof incapable of moving about the house unless he crawled up the stairs.
Extremely worried about her son's state, Jacob's mom Tracey took him back to the doctor. She was devastated as she immediately knew this was no mere pain caused by a little inflammation. Speaking to People about the ordeal she said, "He's been my doctor since I was 12, and I could see on his face that something was really, really wrong. We got an x-ray and when we got back home I told my husband that I think it’s really bad, I think it's cancer. About four hours after the x-ray I got a phone call, and they said, 'We need you to come back right now, and the doctor is requesting that you bring your spouse along with you'."
"And that's when I knew, 100 percent, that it was cancer," the mother said. Tracey added, "It was like I was hit by a train. My limbs went numb and I could barely walk." Due to the severity of Jacob's condition, the doctor referred the Bredenhof family to a specialist, while warning them the boy could be suffering from an extremely rare form of bone cancer, osteosarcoma. Their worst fears came true when the diagnosis was confirmed 17 days later by the doctors at the British Columbia Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. Jacob had no time to lose and they immediately put him on his first 18 rounds of aggressive chemotherapy.
In the four-month period from June to September, Jacob went through a total of six rounds of chemotherapy while preparing for surgery. His mother warned him of the very real possibility that his leg may have to be amputated in order to save his life. Tracey laid out three options in front of her son. One, a full amputation, the worst case scenario when considering pain and mobility. Two, a leg salvage surgery, which included having metal rods inserted into his leg and never running or jumping again to protect the fragile material. Three, a rotationplasty.
Rotationplasty is an extremely uncommon surgery in which the leg is amputated from mid-thigh to mid-calf and the lower leg is rotated 180 degrees to reattach the foot backward in order to act as a knee joint. For Jacob, the choice was clear. "He chose rotationplasty, which surprised me a bit and also didn’t, based on his character," Tracey said, adding, "But he chose it because he wants to play sports again, he wants to run, he wants to work on the farm, he wants to play with his brothers. He was able to look past the social implications of having a backwards foot on a small leg in order to have that mobility. I think he showed a lot of foresight and bravery for such a young man."
On October 4, Jacob was taken in for surgery and through a nail-biting nine hours of work, that included cutting his main vein and artery, the doctors were able to keep his nerve and reattach it in his lower leg, retaining his ability to move the leg. What followed was an "excruciating" three week recovery period, after which he was put back into the chemotherapy treatments that caused him indescribable pain and discomfort. "It is remarkable how he’s handled everything. He hasn’t been able to start high school and he’s never complained about that. Not once, going into surgery, did he say that he didn’t want this to happen," the proud mother gushed about her brave son.
"He just takes everything as it comes and is very accepting of everything that’s been put on his path so far," she added. However, Tracey urges the importance of providing better treatment for children suffering from cancer. "There have been no advances in treatment or prognosis in about 40 years, which is fairly disheartening to hear. Part of the problem is that only about 4 percent of the money raised or from the government goes to pediatric cancers. In the last 30 years, there’s only been 3 new chemos approved for children, and for adults, there’s been about 70. So that’s frustrating. My son is getting a treatment that’s incredibly hard on his organs, and these kids have lasting problems. I just think our kids deserve better," she said.
Despite the pain and suffering he's had to go through at such a young age, Jacob has been able to maintain a positive outlook. He is now on his 14th round of chemotherapy and after the last one, he will be starting rehab with a prosthetic leg. "His goal is to play basketball again, and he’d like to get a dirtbike! Part of it for him is that he accepts the path that he’s on. And all the support has been phenomenal, from our church community and our family and our friends and the people around the world who are following his journey. All of that really helps us. I could not be more proud of him," the strong teen's mother said.