Imagine being a kid stuck in a cancer ward at Christmastime, getting poked and prodded, feeling sick, and very often bored waiting for the next test or blood draw, while missing out on all the magic and fun of the season.
Jacob Goeders of Mountain View, 11, doesn’t have to imagine, because he’s lived it. And because he knows what it’s like, Jacob is in his second year playing “Santa” to dozens of children at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto this week, delivering presents he purchased after raising money from Facebook friends, and friends of friends.
Two years ago on Dec. 2, Jacob was diagnosed with high risk Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, landing him in the Packard cancer ward during the holiday season. Christmas was suddenly upended for Jacob, his mom, Sherry, his dad, Todd, and his little brother Jordan, then age 4.
As the one-year anniversary of the diagnosis approached last year, Jacob got an idea: what if he asked all his friends to donate $1 so that he could buy Christmas presents for the other children on the cancer ward and bring them a little holiday cheer?
“I wanted to make other kids feel good, and I wanted to do something,” Jacob said recently. “I felt good because I was helping other kids who were stuck in the hospital like I was.”
Superhero Alter Ego
As it turns out, Jacob isn’t just any mild-mannered boy, he has a superhero alter ego known as “The Leukemia Slayer”. He adopted the persona earlier in 2011 when his family started a Facebook page by the same name, to keep family and friends updated on Jacob’s treatment. Jacob didn’t just have a few friends, he had more like a couple thousand.
Those friends donated in excess of $2,000 to what was dubbed “The Santa Slayer Project”, allowing Jacob and his family to buy more than 200 gifts for kids in the cancer ward, as well as other areas of the hospital.
“When he started walking down and handing out the presents, the parents were crying. It was more emotional than I expected,” Sherry Goeders said. “Moms teared up, I teared up. (Jacob) was somebody who knows what it’s like, and has been there…it was really cool.”
Not only was it cool, it was courageous. Jacob underwent a painful chemotherapy treatment immediately before he handed out presents to other children as the Santa Slayer. At that point of “front line” treatment, Jacob was skinny and had no hair. Sherry said he looked sick.
A year later, Jacob is in maintenance treatment. He visits the hospital once a week for lab work, and gets chemotherapy pills about once a month. His hair is back, and he looks healthier. He will remain in treatment until 2014, when he expects to slay Leukemia once and for all.
For more of the story, go to the Good Neighbor Stories website.