St. Mary's first-graders rally around classmate diagnosed with leukemia

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DeKALB – Marissa Dobie said the outpouring of love and support from St. Mary Catholic School in DeKalb and the community has been overwhelming after her son Jake’s leukemia diagnosis last year.

From the gifts and cards to the donated meals to a signed photo and letter from Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, every little thing has meant so much, she said.

The school’s students will continue to show their first-grade classmate he won’t be fighting this battle alone by wearing special orange T-shirts on Friday – orange being the color that promotes leukemia awareness. The shirts, which read “Lancers don’t fight alone,” were provided to each student for free.

Dobie, an eighth-grade teacher at the school, said she knew something was wrong with Jake after he experienced unusual bruising after falling off playground equipment. A cut to his knee also took a very long time to clot.

Although doctors advised he should be fine, a change in her son’s demeanor prompted Dobie to get a blood test for Jake.

“A few days later, he would get really tired and lay down, and that’s not my kid,” Dobie said. “I knew something was wrong.”

Jake was diagnosed with leukemia Aug. 23, the first day of school, and started on chemotherapy soon afterward. The intensive treatment has caused Jake to miss large portions of the school year, but he has been able to make up his schoolwork with an at-home tutor. Dobie also had to miss the first quarter of the school year to take care of her son, who had to have an IV administered every six hours.

Dobie said the entire cancer treatment will last about three years.

He currently is not in school because of dangers posed by the flu season. Once Jake is strong enough to return to class, and because he lost his hair through the chemotherapy treatments, the entire first-grade class will wear donated caps to stand with him.