Walt Disney Elementary School first-grader Jacob Angel is like most boys his age, inquisitive about people and the world around him, with a bright smile and an engaging manner. During a visit to McCambridge Park on Sunday, Jacob played with the family dog Bruno while his younger brother, Thomas, age 6, ran about with boundless energy.
“He’s starting to feel better and get his energy back,” said Jacob’s mother, Diana. The Angel family were visiting the park after going out for a pancake breakfast.
“Jacob’s doing really good right now,” added father Tony. “He’s reached a point in his therapy where he takes a rest from the weekly chemotherapy injections. He even gained a pound last week.”
Jacob was diagnosed with a rare kidney cancer, Stage 3 Nephroblastoma, on March 2, after his father noticed a hard lump on the boy’s belly right below his rib cage. After some scans and tests, seven-year-old Jacob underwent surgery right away to remove the Wilms Tumor. The affected kidney, a nearby adrenal gland and six lymph nodes were taken out during the operation.
He began rounds of radiation and chemotherapy to kill possibly remaining cancer cells. The therapy makes him weak and he vomits frequently after the treatments. Jacob has lost 10 pounds since the diagnosis, weighing just 45 pounds when his most recent round of chemo ended.
While Jacob and his family have been dealing with the impact and treatment of his cancer, the Disney Elementary community has rallied around the family. A youcaring.com webpage was created to raise funds to help offset co-pays for the $78,000 surgery, the radiation and chemotherapy treatments and other medical expenses. As of June 12, the website has raised $2300 for the family, largely by donations from the Disney Elementary community.
“Walt Disney Elementary is a small school with a personal and family-like atmosphere,” commented Marieke Beeler, Walt Disney Elementary Booster Club President. “We want to help the Angel family be able to focus on the hard work of getting well, rather than the stress of paying for treatment.”
“The wonderful thing about the youcaring.com platform is that 100 percent of the donations go to Jacob and his family,” Beeler added. “No one should have to go through something like fighting cancer alone and as a school we stand behind Jacob and his family. We want nothing more than welcoming a healthy Jacob back to school in August.”
“It is so heartwarming how his friends love him and put a smile on his face,” Tony mentioned. “His little brother is taking this very hard, too.”
Tony also pointed out some additional members of the Burbank community who’ve supported the family. Jacob’s first-grade classmates, along with their teacher Terri Daou, held a lemonade stand sale and raised $350 for the family.
“Marieke Beeler set up the website and has been so amazing. She has been wonderful,” he said. “Principal Kistler was so amazing and helpful, continuing Jacob’s education in a safe manner by arranging home schooling for the remainder of the year.”
“Jacob was to play for the D Backs Burbank Park and Rec coach pitch team,” Tony added. “Coach Jenny donated his uniform and lets him play when he has the energy. That means so much to him.”
Jacob’s Nephroblastoma is being treated by a Los Angeles doctor who’s performed over 50 surgeries for the cancer. The overall prognosis for complete remission is 85 percent, according to Tony.
“As long as Jacob has no setbacks, he will attend second grade with all his friends,” Tony said. “We are looking forward to him going into second grade.”
Jacob turns eight in August. His brother Thomas, who is 18 months younger, will enter first grade when school resumes.
Jacob will have a CT scan next week and resume chemotherapy treatments once every three weeks until early September.
The youcaring.com website publishes periodic updates on Jacob’s progress and continues to accept donations to help the family out with medical expenses for 74 more days.
Almost half of the $5000 fundraising goal has been met, and anyone in the community can donate online.