Class of 2012: Cancer couldn’t prevent his diploma

Of all the students in this year’s crop of graduates, Lynnwood High School senior Jacob Sears may have faced the toughest road.

Jacob played clarinet in band, took AP English classes and honors algebra courses, participated on the school’s junior varsity baseball team and hopes to pursue a career as a chef. And there’s his zest for life.

“He’s got a twinkle in his eye,” said Debbie McGahan, a school counselor.

Earlier this year, Jacob complained of headaches. He was later diagnosed with bone cancer affecting his skull, quite possibly resulting from earlier radiation treatment he received for brain cancer, diagnosed just before his seventh birthday.

“That treatment was successful in that the tumor did not return,” said Dr. Russ Geyer, an oncologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, where Jacob is being treated. “Unfortunately a new tumor arose in the bone.”

Geyer also treated Jacob’s brother Nicholas, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died in 2008.

Jacob’s last day of regular school classes was in early January. He was treated with 10 rounds of chemotherapy before undergoing surgery last month to treat bone cancer.

“Nothing ever got him down,” said Steve Miranda, the high school’s dean of students. “Even when he said, ‘I’ve got those headaches again.’”

He didn’t dwell on it, Miranda said. “He wanted to move on to what he was doing that day, working on his senior project and hanging out with his friends.”

The education department at Children’s worked with Lynnwood High School staff to help Jacob complete his graduation requirements, including his senior project.

With aspirations to be a chef, Jacob decided to prepare a meal for 10 people — at the hospital.

The Mexican dinner was scheduled for April 9. The day before the big event, Jacob felt terrible, Miranda said. But the morning of the dinner, he enthusiastically told people: “Let’s get this done!”

“It was wonderful; delicious,” Miranda said. “The setting was beautiful.”

Photographs taken that evening show Jacob smiling and hamming it up with hospital staff. Another shows him embracing his mom, Jonae Cachero.

One of the toughest parts of finishing his schoolwork was being separated from his friends, Jacob said during an interview before his surgery. “It’s hard to go day by day,” he said. “I’m not going to school and seeing all my friends. Pretty much, I’m like in my own world.”

Jacob had hoped to attend his high school graduation on Saturday but remains hospitalized at Children’s as he continues to recover from surgery.

“I wish I could take a bed and wheel him in there, but there’s no way,” Miranda said.

“But he is graduating. He will get a diploma.” And his name will be announced at graduation.

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