As many of you know, our sweet Jacob has passed away after a courageous fight against Leukemia. We are grateful for the love and support that everyone has shown during these difficult times. We're setting up this fundraiser to assist his parents with funeral expenses. A portion of the funds raised will be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Asian American Donor Program - two wonderful organizations that helped Jacob and the family so much.
Here are the links if you would rather donate to these organizations in Jacob's honor directly:
Asian American Donor Program
Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Greater Bay Area
If you'd like to know Jacob's story, please read on.
Jacob Anthony Valdez was born on November 10, 2006. My sister’s son, and first born grandchild in my family. He was a quiet child, very observant, and never missed a thing. He was kind and caring. He never spoke badly of anyone and hated when he would hear you speak ill of others. His compassion and intelligence made him seem wise beyond his years. He was a responsible kuya, taking care of his younger brother Elijah and baby sister Riley. He was the ringleader of his younger cousins. He was growing to be a cool little dude. He read the all the Harry Potter novels. Lego sets were built quickly and with precision. He was studying to be a Jedi.
In February of 2016, Jacob was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. What we thought was just a persistent cough and cold turned out to be so much worse. Jacob had cancer. He had a very aggressive, very rare form of AML. His bone marrow was producing abnormal, cancerous white blood cells so rapidly that it was interfering with his normal, healthy blood cells. The odds of his survival were grim.
My sister asked me to give him the bad news. I was his godfather, his ninong. He trusted me. I loved him like he was my own son. We had just lost my uncle to lymphoma a few months prior and the family was still reeling from Papa Louie’s loss. So I spoke to him plainly and truthfully. “Jakes, you have leukemia. It’s a type of cancer. You’re gonna have to get chemo like Papa Louie. It’s gonna suck. But you’ll be okay”.
Jacob was smart enough to be scared. He cried. But he didn’t ask why. Jacob resolved to fight. He would be strong and brave.
Jacob’s only real chance of survival was to get chemotherapy to essentially kill his own cancer producing bone marrow, then find a matching donor to transplant healthy marrow to him, all the while, hoping that Jacob would survive through the treatment.
Over the course of the last year, Jacob received a ridiculous amount of chemotherapy. After the chemo failed to give him remission, he was enrolled in several clinical trials and took experimental medications. He was getting blood transfusions almost every other day. He was in the hospital for weeks and months at a time. But the leukemia persisted.
Our family and friends mobilized. We hosted donor drives to try and find him a bone marrow match. We scheduled round the clock coverage so someone he loved would be at his bedside always. We educated ourselves. We researched. We prayed.
Along this journey, Jacob and our family met amazing people who would become part of our team. His doctors and nurses fought hard alongside him. Every fever, every bleed, every ache and pain was taken care of. His child life specialists and social workers made sure he was as happy as he could be while he was in the hospital. His teachers gave him homework to finish while he was getting treatment. The folks at the AADP helped get the word out and set up donor drives in the hopes of finding a match. The Make-A-Wish foundation even sent him on a trip to Hawaii with the entire family! The outpouring of love and support from everyone who knew his story let him and us know that Jacob was not alone.
Jacob fought for one year and five months. That’s much longer than the few weeks we were originally given. The leukemia persisted. The chemotherapy was taking its toll on his ten-year-old body. Throughout his ordeal, he managed to smile, and laugh, and spread the love that was in his heart with everyone around him.
Jacob Anthony Valdez passed away just before 3pm on
June 1, 2017. He passed quickly, as if to not burden his family with a long, drawn out process. He was surrounded by the love of his family, just like he wanted.
He is survived by his mommy, Raina, his daddy, Ralph, his stepfather or “Papa”, Jeff, his younger brother, Elijah, his baby sister, Riley Joy, and his step-sisters Jennalyn and Chloe. He is survived by his extended family, his grandparents – his “mamas” and “papas”, his aunts, uncles, cousins, his ninangs and ninongs.
Pictured above is Jacob with "Perry" the platypus, who Jacob kept by his side since he was diagnosed. Perry gave him comfort and we think Perry was the one who truly knew how hard it was for him. Before he passed, he told his mom that Perry should stay with them. Perry is in safe keeping with his brother, Elijah.
Jacob was a shooting star. He burned brightly and beautifully, and for a short time, shined brighter than all the other stars in the sky.