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Jacob's Journey: Wahpeton teen battling cancer

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WAHPETON - A high schooler is captivating the community in Wahpeton with his perseverance and attitude. 

Jacob Petermann knew going into his sophomore year on the basketball court he had potential for a big season, but in one day, his life changed forever.

January 12th was supposed to be a day of promise for Jacob Petermann even if he didn't know it.

At the time Petermann was a sophomore for the Wahpeton boys basketball team. In Devils Lake, his coaches planned to tell him after warmups he would play on the varsity team for the first time. On his first layup in warmups, he landed awkwardly on his leg. 

"When I looked at it part of my leg was going to the right and part of it was going to the left," Jacob Petermann, a junior at Wahpeton High School, said.  

A trip to the hospital in Grand Forks confirmed a broken femur. Immediately they knew something more was wrong.

"They got the xray from Devils Lake hospital and they were sending it out to other doctors and seeing what he could see," Petermann recalled. 

What the doctors saw was a cancerous tumor.

"It was kind of crazy at the start," said Jacob Petermann when remembering what the doctors said. "Tons of things were going through my mind at the time and it was just a big blur."

"The next thing is you have a couple minutes to let it soak in and then we were thinking blessing in disguise," Connie, Jacob's mother explained. 

Jacob started chemo immediately.

"Seeing the chemo go into me was probably the worst part," Jacob said. 

Jacob was bedridden for the next few months during chemotherapy. Visits from his teammates, family, and even his cat Mira Bella kept his spirits up and so was the hope of beating cancer and returning back to school with his friends. Cards lined his hospital room. His family has boxes full of them.  

Through it all his family wanted to know how his team’s season was going. Any time they could find a stream of the Jacob’s team playing they didn’t miss it.

"We would schedule that with the doctors and nurses," Jacob's mother expressed. "Don’t bother us the game is on so we would have to watch the Huskies."

On March 29th it seemed like their patience paid off. The Petermann’s were told the cancer had been contained to just his leg. But just one day later they got their worst news yet. Jacob’s left leg needed to be amputated if they wanted to have a better chance of the cancer not returning.

"I was in shock and kind of panicked. I didn’t say much I turned away and started to cry after that," Jacob noted.

"When that news came it was a brick wall. It was really hard to take," Connie cried. "That’s the hope that we kept telling him and got him through so well and now that hope is gone."

Less than a day later Jacob went into physical therapy, however that too brought challenges. The nerve pain in his amputated leg was often unbearable without pain killers. There was even a point he got chicken pox. Through it all Jacob smiled for strength.

"I wanted to set an example that you can get through this with ease," Jacob said.

His strength shined later this month. Jacob’s smile made its way back to Wahpeton. For the first time in nine months, Jacob returned to school, where he received a hero’s welcome.

"I got to see faces that I haven’t seen in what felt like years. I was kind of shocked when I first came in actually," Jacob recounted. 

It’s the same with Jacob’s attitude. He may have to use crutches, his left leg may be gone now, but he still is the same kid that won’t let cancer stop him from completing his journey.

"One of the nurses said there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and we are getting there," Petermann said.