It was only two weeks after our son, Jakob, had turned 16 years old that we received the diagnosis; Jakob had Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Within an instant, we embarked on a path no parent should ever have to travel. Prior to his diagnosis, Jakob was enjoying the innocence of being a 16-year-old boy. He had just received his driver’s license. He was the starting goalie at Elyria Catholic High School. He had an incredibly bright future ahead of him. It was absolutely devastating to tell Jakob he had cancer.
We will never forget the pain and sadness in his face when we had that talk. We also will never forget the fierce determination and fight that drove Jakob in the following 18 months.Jakob’s team of doctors and nurses were confident that he had a 90% chance of beating his cancer with four chemotherapy treatments. We always believed Jakob would prevail, as did he. Being the fighter he was, the only option was to beat this diagnosis. Unfortunately, that outlook changed when Jakob’s tumor doubled in size while going through chemo.
We found out then, only four months after treatment started, that Jakob actually had a rare subtype of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma called “double hit” diffuse Large B cell. This meant Jakob’s cancer cells expressed two different mutations. Jakob had an adult cancer that children are very rarely diagnosed with, making it more difficult to treat. The treatment plan would change several times throughout his journey, but Jakob’s faith never wavered.
Despite the growing cancer, Jakob always believed that GOD would not give him anything he could not handle. Jakob continued to love his beautiful life while battling this monster with grace and perseverance. He led us all by his example of strength, compassion, faith, and joy. He would often say, “having cancer is not hard, what is hard is watching all of you guys deal with it”. He was a true inspiration to several people along his journey.
Whether you knew Jakob personally or you’d never even met him, one thing was certain; everyone was touched by his strength, humility, and his wise-beyond-his-years philosophy on life.
The journey of living without Jakob being physically present is not easy. Jakob impacted so many lives, and there is a definite void in all of our lives now since he has physically left us. Jakob always trusted in GOD’S purpose for his life. He lived everyday with passion and purpose. He loved his family immensely and worried about all of us. The Hwangstrong Foundation was formed so we could help families dealing with all aspects of a childhood cancer diagnosis. We know this is what Jakob wanted us to do: help other families during the most difficult time of their lives. We will forever remain Hwangstrong for Jakob. We vow to keep his legacy, faith, love, joy, and compassion alive by being of service to others in their most vulnerable time of need.