Jake Stoneking's bucket list seems quite reasonable. A hunting trip, a tattoo and a trip to the local topless bar: all doable in the 19-year-old's hometown of West Linn, Ore.
"He put stuff on there that he knows can happen," said Jake's dad, Todd Stoneking. "We know the time's coming. We know it's coming. But he's doing pretty good and we can still do a lot of things."
Jake has medulloblastoma, a rare form of brain cancer. He was diagnosed at the age of 14 after a string of unbearable headaches.
"He had a tumor removed about the size of a golf ball," Todd Stoneking said, recalling the 12-hour surgery in 2009 followed by months of radiation and chemo. "It pretty much took him down to nothing."
|"I know what they mean now about heartache. It just aches."|
Once a 140-pound wrestler with "six-pack abs," Jake withered to 104 pounds throughout the grueling treatment as he relearned how to walk and eat, according to his dad.
"We thought it was gone," Todd Stoneking said of the tumor in Jake's cerebellum – the brain center for balance and coordination. "They did scans every three months for a year to make sure it was gone. After that they did them every six months, and then once a year. We found out in February it was back."
Back with a vengeance, the tumor stretches from Jake's brain to the bottom of his spinal cord, where his nerves are "matted" with cancer, according to his dad.
"The doctor told us he'd have three months," Todd Stoneking said, adding that Jake is taking two experimental chemo drugs that could buy him an extra year. Today, the drugs are starting to take their toll.
"They said he would drop down really low Tuesday and then start feeling better Thursday," Todd Stoneking said. "They're going to do two rounds, and if it starts shrinking with these two treatments, they'll go ahead and keep treating him for up to 12 months."
Jake started his bucket list when one night he couldn't sleep, according to his dad.
"He was up late, thinking, 'I want to do this, I want to do that,'" said Todd Stoneking. "We're knocking 'em off as fast as we can and we're adding them in between."
So far Jake has checked five items off the 17-item list, including a helicopter ride and a visit to Jiggles – the local topless bar. Still left on the list: Hunting a black bear, laughing until he cries and getting "Stoneking" tattooed on his back.
"It's bittersweet," said Todd Stoneking, explaining how friends are rallying to help Jake check off the rest of Jake's bucket list. "Some 19-year-olds die in car crashes and their parents wish they could have one more day. We're getting lots of one more days."
Todd Stoneking said that Jake is not only his son, he's his best friend.
"It'd be easier if he wasn't," he said through tears. "He's an awesome kid. And I'm not just saying because he's mine. There's something about him, his infectious smile.
"I know what they mean now about heartache," he added with a shaky voice. "It just aches."