Some of Jake’s former teachers saw him the other day at the high school. I guess there was a debate as to whether he looked “good” or not. I can see it from both sides. He is certainly not the same kid that disappeared from their classrooms on October 23, 2014.  Jake had lost weight by eating carefully and exercising. He was on top of the world. He had a girlfriend, had decided to go to Rose Hulman, had started making about $30.00/hour delivering pizzas. He felt good, confident, the world was his. His attitude was better than ever, and he was prepared to make his senior year his best. Then, as you know, tragedy struck.  For some reason, my dad took pictures of him in the hospital just before he became incoherent. The months that followed wreaked havoc on his body. The surgeries, tests, prednisone- they all left their mark. There were weeks when he didn’t eat. When he came home, he was pale, scarred and chubby cheeked from the prednisone. He was very weak and in constant pain from the nerve damage he incurred in his feet. He didn’t get out much that summer before he started college. It was silly to think back that we let him go. I remember my dad being upset because Jake looked so pale. He was so tired. It never occurred to me that he was even sicker than the year before- it seemed impossible. He’d been on the brink of death- of course he was tired. He was trying to go to college-of course he was tired. And then blood tests proved that it was unbelieveable that he was still conscious. When they started the chemo, I thought about him losing his hair. His hair had always been longer, and he had prided himself on it. It had been partially shaved when the shunt had been placed. None of that mattered. His hair would grow back. He lost more weight and the graft vs. host disease affected his largest organ- his skin- immediately after the transplant. His eyes are dark, his skin looks dirty, he has scratch marks where he has itched during the night. His hair has grown back to the point he needed it trimmed. He is still pale. The hopes that we’d spend time outside while living in Indy faded. I hadn’t expected Jake to feel so bad for so long. They chemo was brutal. It has taken a long time to recover from it. Now he is battling graft vs. host on the inside too. The prednisone has actually made his face fill out to where it looks healthy. When he first started working at Kroger, I told anyone who asked about him. I knew people wouldn’t recognize him. A friend told me that Jake had thanked them for recognizing him and talking to him. She said it made her want to cry. Jake spent many days and nights alone- of course Dave, Grandpa, or I was with him, but without the company of friends, he was very lonely. He has done a good job of reaching out to friends. He’d like to date again. Maybe people are nervous that he is still sick or fragile. His new immune system seems to be woking beautifully. I predict in a few years, no one will be able to tell he’s been through this ordeal. I have said to people, “You may not recognize Jake,” He does look different. One could argue that he looks bad, comparatively. I have turned the corner, along with others who’ve seen him the past year. “He looks good!” I now say. He’s come a long way. He still has a ways to go, but he’s happy, motivated and getting stronger. His attitude is amazing. He’s becoming very independent and is driven to get back on course. He’s beautiful…

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