OAK HARBOR, Wash. - Jacob Phelps has the energy and enthusiasm to match any 3-year-old. But if you listen to his labored breathing, every day and every breath is a battle.
"How do you explain to a two-year-old you have a brain tumor and we have to fix this," says his father, Ben Phelps.
For the last year-and-a-half, Ben and Mary Phelps have been fighting to save their son's life.
"One morning he woke up and he was uncontrollably vomiting and lost his balance and was walking sideways," says his mother. "It was horrifying."
His pediatrician found a rare ependymoma tumor wrapped around Jacob's brain stem.
"Doctors described it as gristle on a steak, as far as how it sticks to the brain and how tough it is to get off," says his father, who was serving in Afghanistan as a Navy pilot when he learned of his son's condition.
After two surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation, he appears to be cancer-free. But Jacob now lives with a trach and a feeding tube. The surgery left him with a facial droop that affects his eyesight, too.
Trying to juggle three kids with countless visits to the doctor, his parents would never have made it without the support of the community around them. They decided to pay it forward.
"One of the things we wanted to do is bring awareness to childhood cancer and brain tumors," says Mary Phelps. By selling cookbooks, they've raised $9,000 so far for research.
The reoccurrence rate for Jacob's cancer is extremely high, so the Phelps have learned to live and love every day.
"Just to see him his determination and his bravery, it's really helped us through it," says Mary.
The Phelps will be taking part in the Run of Hope in Seattle on October 3. For more information, go to jacobphelpsfoundation.org.