Senior years aren’t supposed to go like Jacob Briggerman’s went.
Not only did the two-year starter on the Effingham football team miss out on his fall season after it got canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but he also received news that turned everything upside-down.
Diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in October, Briggerman went from doing a lot to doing a little in a short amount of time. According to Mayo Clinic’s website, Ewing’s sarcoma is a form of bone cancer that affects young children and teenagers.
“We were working out a lot for football and doing a lot of physical activity,” Briggerman said. “That went from doing a whole bunch to pretty much nothing.”
Once November rolled around, Jacob started his treatments, with three surgeries to follow, beginning in February.
The road to recovery had begun, and, eventually, progress came with it.
“He’s done exceptionally well with treatments, honestly,” said Jill Briggerman, Jacob’s mom. “He’s been sick a few times after, but he seems to bounce back fairly well. They’re always checking blood count numbers here in the last three months or so; we’ve had a lot more delays, but he’s managed pretty well.
“Our life has changed some, just because we’re always about, ‘OK, when’s the next treatment cycle,’ because they alternate between the two-day treatment to a six-day stay.”
Jill added that Jacob gradually went from using a wheelchair to a walker and then to crutches to move around, and through it all, he was never alone.
The community has played a significant role in backing Jacob.
Angie DeWerff Wolfe, an Effingham resident, organized a GoFundMe page to help with medical costs, setting the goal at $10,000.
However, since she created the fundraiser in November, it’s reached far beyond that number, at $17,558. A number that blew Jill away.
“I told my husband that I expected $1,000, and it’s been way above and beyond,” Jill said. “We just put it in a medical account and use it as needed. He’ll have scans for the next four years every three months, so we’ll probably rely on that. But, we’re just blown away by people’s generosity in this community; it’s just astounding.”
In addition to the fundraiser, Jill said that The Giving Plate, located in Altamont, and GATE to PLATE — among other countless gifts — helped them with necessities, as well.
Overall, as the community continues to rally around Jacob in his fight, one thing that has always stayed firm is the family’s religious beliefs.
Jacob, Jill, and countless others even don wristbands to show support and awareness, with each band inscribed with the Bible verse from Isaiah 40:31.
“Our strength in God is the foundation of where we are with things because you never know what may happen tomorrow,” Jill said. “Just relying on that strength has been huge.
“We appreciate the financial support, but the prayer support, that’s what gets you through anything.”
Nothing was enjoyable for him, especially knowing that he would never put on shoulder pads or a helmet again.
However, that didn’t stop him from standing on the field.
He still showed up, just in a different capacity, and that alone made head coach Brett Hefner happy.
“I just enjoy having him around,” Hefner said. “That group of kids and that class was such a tight-knit group. They grew up together, playing everything. I think they loved it when he was there.
“The biggest thing that I’ll say about him is that he’s pretty tough and pretty positive. I can’t imagine the toughness that it takes to go through what he’s going through, and then anytime you talk to him, he’ll never say he’s not doing well.”