Traverse City Record-Eagle

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June 28, 2013

Teen with cancer granted wish to visit friend in Hawaii

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.”

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