Jacob Pesta was just 5-years-old when he was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor that doctors said would end his life within two years. Three years later, he is winning the fight against cancer and inspiring his Commerce Township family to help others with a fund-raiser next week.
It was about a month before Jake, now 8-years-old, was to start kindergarten when an accidental fall sent him to the hospital to be checked for a concussion. An MRI revealed he was suffering from a very rare, aggressive thalamic brain tumor.
Two institutions told Jacob’s parents, Mike and Shelly Pesta, they should be prepared to lose their son. Statistics show that one out of every five children diagnosed with cancer dies, Shelly Pesta said. Furthermore, the location of the tumor was blocking Jacob’s right brain ventricle by 90 percent, putting him at high risk for a life-threatening seizure.
The Pestas looked for other cases like their son’s, but the results weren’t encouraging.
“There’s been only one other case like Jake’s,” Mike Pesta said. “We asked what happened. They said they lost him due to lack of follow-up. It turns out a lot of kids are lost because parents just can’t cope, or else you just have to go to work if you want to keep your house and feed your other kids.
“We are just blessed to be able to do what we have … It’s just hyper-focus because neither one of us are willing to lose him due to lack of follow-up.”
Follow-up has included two craniotomies to remove the tumor, four months of proton beam radiation, 124 days of chemothreapy, hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatment, and a host of additional treatments. The family has traveled around the country for treatments, including regular trips to MD Anderson and Baylor Medical Centers in Texas.
“Much of the treatment is covered by insurance, but there has been a very large chunk that has gone into the hundreds of thousands of dollars that we have had to pay for,” Shelly Pesta said.
To help with costs and help other families with children battling cancer, Shelly started a 501(c)3 charity called Jacob’s Fight.
“I think it’s really wrong that you have to be indigent, destitute and living on the streets before they will actually help you,” Shelly Pesta said. “It’s just not right … whether it’s help with a house payment or any bill that comes in, if it means it helps somebody and takes pressure off, I want to do that for them because it’s been hard on us.”
She said the goal of the charity organization and associated website — www.jacobsfight.com — is to eradicate pediatric brain tumors through research, education awareness, and family assistance.
“I’m tired of walking into clinics and having the doctors that I work with not be there with me when they are in the room because they know the next patient they see, they have to tell the family that there is nothing more they can do and that their child is going to die.
“I’ve gone through that enough. I just felt that God put on my heart that there is something I have to do about this, so I started Jacob’s Fight Foundation.”
On Friday, Sept. 14, the foundation will be holding the Rockin’ the D on the Runway fund-raiser at the Edgewood Country Club in Commerce Township.
The event, which begins at 7 p.m. at 8399 Commerce Road, will feature a professional fashion show, live music, appetizers, drinks and an auction. Miss Michigan 2012 Angela Venditti and WDIV-TV Local 4′s Ashlee Baracy will be at the event. LaVida Massage, Hour Detroit, and WDIV Local 4 are among the event sponsors.
For more information about the event, to purchases tickets or to make a donation, visit the foundation’s website or call Indigo Salon and Serenity Spa at 248-960-4990.
Tickets for the fund-raiser are $50.