| A NEW BEGINNING – Jacob Gearin, 11, of Sharon has made a complete recovery after doctors discovered a malignant brain tumor just last year. He is enjoying his pool he recently received from Make-A-Wish. |
At face value, Jacob Gearin seems like any other kid living in small-town America. Walls adorned with Nickelodeon and St. Louis Cardinals swag surround the shelves of WWE action figures in a room too small for an adult but just right for him.
Outside the humble country home that holds this boyhood abode sits a rippling above-ground pool filled with all the fun, floating rubber requirements for a hot summer day spent splashing in the cool water. Surrounding this retreat from the heat is the Tennessee countryside, a natural wonder for any boy his age and practically begging for further exploration from a child’s eye.
To top it all off you have the childhood chariot – a blue and silver freestyle Mongoose bike – that is the perfect vessel for all the adventure that an expeditious boy can dish out. And of course, you can’t forget the kid brother, Dylan, there to follow his older brother Jacob to whatever destination he may lead him.
For most adults, this picture seems like a long gone day; the fragment of memory we hope to experience again in the afterlife but are forced to leave behind while we grow up. For Jacob, however, this is more than just a childhood home. This is his second chance at living.
Just a year ago, Jacob Gearin, 11, of Sharon, underwent an operation to remove a malignant brain tumor discovered when he was only 10 years old. The operation would leave Jacob in a near-vegetative state, unable to remember basic functions such as walking, speaking, reading and writing.
Over the past year, Jacob and his family – mother and stepfather Deb and Mike Barker; father, Doug Gearin; and younger brother Dylan, 5; have worked tirelessly to get back to living a normal life.
Jacob’s mother Deb – a stay-at-home Mom – recalls how quickly the entire ordeal began in May of 2009. A simple fall off the bed would soon turn their household upside down.
“Him and his brother were jumping on the bed. Jacob fell off the bed and hit the back of his head on the carpet,” Deb recalls. “We went to the emergency room the next day because he kept throwing up and his eyes were dilated. After a CAT scan they said there was too much fluid around his brain.”
For Jacob, the fall ended up being a blessing in disguise. Physicians at Volunteer Community Hospital who saw the fluid around the brain immediately directed the family to Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center in Memphis. There, it was discovered that the growth in Jacob’s head was a malignant – and life-threatening – tumor.
“I don’t even know how to describe it to you,” Deb said. “It’s the worst fear that you can possibly have to know that your child’s life is threatened.”
The type of cancer is called a mixed germ cell tumor, a tumor that almost exclusively arises in young males.
Jacob soon began chemotherapy treatment at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. After parts of the tumor had doubled in size, physicians advised the family that it was time to remove the growth. The procedure would be high risk.
“They told us before we took him out there that when he came out, he would never be the same child,” Deb said. “It was 11 hours. We walked, we prayed and we walked. We were relieved when the surgeon said he got it all, but when we went down to the room to see him we were unprepared for what we saw.”
Jacob was in a vegetative state.
The real feat was just starting for Jacob. He spent the next year re-learning everything he’d learned before: walking, moving, remembering and communicating. Jacob would spend three hours a day working on physical exercises and drills.
To make matters even more difficult for the family, stepfather Mike Barker underwent a quadruple bypass while Jacob was beginning his therapy sessions. The procedure was successful, however, and Jacob took to the physical therapy sessions well, eventually getting back into school by February of this year.
When just a year ago Jacob was unable to speak or walk, he’s now beginning to get back to where he used to be.
Jacob has taken up swimming thanks to a new above-ground pool – a special delivery received at the beginning of August from the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Chi Omega Sorority.
During the summer break, Jacob began building a collection of posters and memorabilia of iCarly television show star and pop singer Miranda Cosgrove, whom he admits to being somewhat of a fanatic for.
“I love her half to death,” Jacob gloats. “Well, maybe more than half.”
Jacob continues to work on building muscle with physical therapy sessions at Le Bonheur. Up next on Jacob’s agenda: getting back on his blue and silver freestyle Mongoose.
“I’m still trying to keep my balance on it,” Jacob said. “I try to take off as slow as I can at first, but once I get used to it I’ll probably go faster.”
Most importantly, Jacob is back to playing with his younger brother Dylan, who mother Deb asserts has taken on the “big brother role” between the two siblings.
Deb does fear that her son may never truly be considered “normal,” but she does point out that he’s more appreciative, more gracious and much kinder after the yearlong ordeal.
“A lot of parents take for granted that your child is healthy,” Deb said. “When your child is lying there fighting for his life, you don’t know what fear is until that hits you.”
While Jacob gets emotional listening to his parents dote on him, Doug Gearin, his father, hugs his son with great pride. Doug proclaims that his son’s character has been a great inspiration to him as a man.
“We were lucky in a way,” Doug said. “There were some kids down there in a lot worse shape than Jacob. Jacob’s one of the strongest kids I’ve ever met. Most adults can’t handle what he’s been through.”
Jacob is entering the fifth grade this year at Sharon Elementary. When asked if he was excited for his return to school, he responded just like any kid would: “No.”