Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 28, 2013

Teen with cancer granted wish to visit friend in Hawaii

BY ANGIE JACKSON ajackson@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Jake Melvin hadn’t seen his good friend, Jacob Malocha, in almost two years.

Jacob Malocha moved to Hawaii before Jake, then 13, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

Jake, of Traverse City, is now 14 and has had to grow up in a hurry. He endured chemotherapy and frequent trips to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids in attempt to treat histiocytic sarcoma -- a cancer that primarily affects his hip bone.

But Jake’s just a regular teenager this week as he’s reunited with Jacob in Hawaii. The Make-A-Wish Foundation paid for Jake, his mother, aunt and sister to fly to Oahu and visit Pearl Harbor, hike a volcanic crater and enjoy a luau. A doctor recently gave Jake the go-ahead to swim with dolphins — a decision met with excitement after cancer forced Jake to back off his favorite physical activities.

He just had an X-ray and it looks like his hip is healing,” said his mother, Linda Melvin, a teacher at Long Lake Elementary School. “At some point we were thinking he’d have to have reconstructive surgery on his hip because the tumor was about the size of a slice of bread, but now it’s down to the size of a dime.”

It exhausted Melvin to watch her son, who was “full of life,” suffer and abandon his favorite sports such as lacrosse, downhill skiing and adventuring outdoors. Doctors don’t have a prognosis, but a drug appears to work. They remain cautious of a few “spots” on his spine and ribs.

Jake, an incoming freshman at Traverse City West Senior High School, hasn’t dwelt on “why me?” In an essay for his eighth-grade language arts class he wrote that God has a plan.

“I feel like now it’s changed me. And for the better,” Jake said. “It may seem like it’s bad or it’s unfortunate to you, but it tests your faith.”

The Hawaii trip is about making memories for the teen who said he’s found a new appreciation for relaxation. He looked forward to visiting Pearl Harbor and Oahu’s North Shore. Tuesday morning began with sighting a rainbow over the ocean.

“We are standing in the pot of gold,” Melvin told her children.

Melvin initially was reluctant to hear about Make-A-Wish, which grants wishes to kids with life-threatening diseases. Now she’s grateful to take her family’s focus off hospital visits and catch up with old friends.

“I always thought Make-A-Wish was trips for kids that were dying,” she said. “We are just so honored for Jake’s (wish) to be granted.”