Eventually, the cheering stops and the music fades, the lights dim and the gymnasium, once sweltering with humanity even on a cold winter’s night, slowly grows cold.
And yet, years later, the friendship and the camaraderie and the love remain.
Long retired from the full-time head coaching gig, Larry Hill said he had seen Chad Jacobs maybe once since the former Sequim High basketball star graduated in 1998.
So it came as a shock when he read the news on Facebook: Jacobs, 33, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.
“I felt so close to him (and his family) even though I haven’t talked to him in ages,” Hill says.
Now residing in Kalamazoo, Mich., Jacobs and his family — wife Danielle, 4-year-old daughter Kylah and Chad’s two stepdaughters, one 16 and one 20 — are contemplating his future, and theirs.
Rallying around the former prep star turned airline pilot, Jacobs’ friends and family are raising funds both in Michigan and in Sequim, where Hill is looking to set up fundraisers. A golf tournament or an auction is in the works, Hill says, and there is a bank account, The Chad Jacobs Family Fund, at First Federal branches on the peninsula.
Money raised helps pay for all but $3,500 of each chemotherapy treatment, the first of which Jacobs recently completed.
The fact of the matter is, however, the Wolf alum’s prognosis is terminal.
“All they’re doing is buying time,” Hill says.
‘A competitive kid’
When he first set eyes on the freshman, Hill noticed an atypical body type: short legs, long arms and torso. It was a physical makeup that would help Jacobs succeed as a catcher on the baseball diamond.
But it turned out Jacobs could play a little roundball, too. Despite playing for teams that varied in talent and success on the court — 4-18 in his freshman year, 9-14 as a sophomore, 3-17 as a junior and 9-11 in his 1997-1998 senior campaign — Jacobs excelled in all facets of the game.
“The kid understood how to play,” Hill says. “He had a good mind for the game, a competitive kid. He was a very good teammate, saw the floor well.”
Jacobs refined his game over the years, earning a first-team all-Olympic League selection — no easy feat, for Sequim was for years the only 2A school in a league of 3A and 4A schools, some three times Sequim’s size.
Jacobs graduated as one of the most prolific players in Sequim High’s history, finishing No. 1 in steals and three-pointers made, second in scoring (only to Ryan Kaps) and third in rebounds.
Ironically, Jacobs’ senior season ended before the final whistle. Hill got a call from a local paramedic who told him: “Your star player is in the hospital with a compound fracture of his leg.” Well, not quite. What doctors found after a motorcycle mishap was a tree limb that looked like bone sticking out of Jacobs’ calf. The SHS senior missed the final two games of that season, with teammates rallying to knock off a high-ranked North Kitsap squad by 23 points.
Flying high, then grounded
With his family staying in Sequim — father Craig worked as Clallam County Public Works director and mother Sue was director of the
Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center — Jacobs went on to college in Moses Lake, at Portland State and finally at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., where he earned a four-year aeronautics degree. He landed a job with Republic Airlines and most recently with Spirit Airlines. His regular schedule with Spirit was to be a Detroit-to-Bahamas route.
The Friday before Easter, however, Jacobs woke up with a headache and vomited, prompting a trip to the emergency room. A CT scan showed three masses in his brain and an MRI that followed ruled out an infectious mass. On Easter morning, Jacobs had surgery that revealed daunting news: a multifocal glioblastoma multiforme brain tumor, rare (two to three cases per 100,000 in Europe and North America) and aggressively malignant.
As a probationary employee at Spirit Airlines, Jacobs has no medical or life insurance and is grounded, meaning he can’t fly.
The news rocked Jacobs’ teammates, Hill says.
“That group is really shook up; they’ve had a tough time contemplating this,” Hill says.
“Once we complete treatment the only other option is clinical trials and treatments at the nation’s top cancer centers around the United States,” Jacobs’ family posted online at a www.youcaring.com web page. “We have decided as a family to explore every option and go to the places where Chad could be a candidate.”
Money raised helps pay for chemotherapy and radiation, transportation to and from treatment on a daily basis, and the many prescriptions that come with treatment due to its side effects. It also helps to pay for the surgery with the possibility of more surgery and/or participation in a trial study.
“The more time we can buy, the greater the chance of a treatment being made available to him that may slow the growth of the tumors,” Sue Jacobs wrote in an e-mail.
Read updates about Jacobs online at www.facebook.com/chad.jacobs.92798?ref=tn_tnmn. To help, donate to the Chad Jacobs Family Fund at First Federal branches, or online at youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/chad-s-journey-fund-/53774.
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