Oasis of Hope gives NR resident hope during cancer battle
About year ago, New Richmond resident Jake Webster began having trouble swallowing and food was getting stuck in the bottom of his esophagus.
And "like a stubborn man," Webster said he put off getting himself checked out until last October. Doctors ordered an esophagram and later an endoscopy, which is when doctors found the top of Webster's stomach to be ulcerated. After doing biopsies on the scar tissue, the doctors diagnosed Webster with aggressive Adenocarcinoma, or stomach cancer, on Oct. 25.
"It wasn't a good time for a 21-year-old kid who is just trying to get started in the world. She (girlfriend Kirsty Clifford) was there with me when they told me. It was a red flag to us when they called me to verify that I was bringing someone with me to the appointment," Webster said. "They went through all the things that were fine and the tests that came back negative, but then they hit me with the bad news."
Friends and family are hosting a benefit for Webster 2-10 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10 at General Sam's in Somerset, which includes include a free-will donation buffet, silent auction, tractor raffle and gun raffle, as well as entertainment provided by Sunday's Regret. All contributions received will go directly towards Webster's fight against cancer.
After determining that his cancer was at Stage 4, Webster and Clifford went from hospital to hospital and from referral to referral in an attempt to find anyone who could offer any other options for Webster's cancer treatment than chemotherapy. Although he didn't find any options that would work for him during the many referrals, both he and the doctors knew a plan needed to be in place given the severity of his cancer.
"At that point, I walked out the door since I didn't feel like, in my opinion, they could do anything for me. I didn't think that it made sense that they could tell a 21-year-old kid that they couldn't do anything for you," Webster said.
The doctor Webster saw at Rochester Mayo Clinic told him he had three to four months before he could start experiencing a bowel obstruction, at which point chemotherapy wouldn't be an option. He was given six months to live if he did nothing at all and a 50/50 chance he would live a year if he did chemotherapy.
While Webster and Clifford thought about the best option moving forward, Clifford's mother contacted the pair to tell them about a cancer documentary called the "Truth About Cancer." It featured a hospital in Tijuana, Mexico, called the Oasis of Hope Hospital.
"We looked for alternatives for treatment all over the world, including Mexico, and when I started to look more into the Oasis of Hope, the more I was drawn to it. Ultimately, it was the Oasis of Hope ambassador, Rick Hill — a 38-year survivor of cancer — that made me want to go to the Oasis," Webster said. "His story was very similar to mine and what he said resonated with me.
"I am not looking for five or 10 years, I'm looking for a lifetime."
After sending out inquiries to several facilities, the couple heard back from Oasis of Hope the next day with a tentative treatment plan. The pair quickly made their decision to give it a try and flew out to start treatments at the facility on Sunday, Nov. 25.
"The whole experience at the Oasis of Hope was positive. It was the first time that I felt like there was hope. They were very helpful," Webster said. "The whole experience was very eye opening."
They were in Mexico for three weeks for Webster's initial treatment at Oasis of Hope, which included a combination of vitamins infusions, hyperthermia and a focus on his morale and those supporting him. According to the couple, the facility had all the amenities they could want and more.
"They went so far in depth that they even recommended what you should watch on television, which was mostly comedies and uplifting shows or movies," Webster said. "That was part of the book they had in the room that explained why you were doing all the different things they had you doing while you were there. All of it was meant to help support your mental wellbeing while you were there. That they put that much thought into it caught us off guard. It was all about hope, which was really nice."
After being discharged, Webster was given a number of vaccines and told to do nothing for three weeks to give his cells an opportunity to reproduce and do what they are supposed to do.
"We've just finished our three weeks of nothing and just started an extremely low dose of chemotherapy, in the form of pills, that is just enough to stop the replication of the cancer cells. I also take a packet with them that supports my immune system function," Webster said. "I'll take those for three months until we go back in March."
According to Clifford, the treatment Webster is going through is meant to upset the cancer cells and force the immune system to kick in and respond to the threat. Not only did the Oasis of Hope educate them about the treatment Webster was receiving, but how to eat right and cook their own meals as part of an all vegan diet.
"I met amazing people from all over the globe. And the staff was great, so you really felt like everyone cared," Webster said. "I celebrated a birthday while I was there and they let us use the hospital shuttle to go to the San Diego Zoo for a few hours. The whole thing was really professional."
When he goes returns to the Oasis of Hope in March, the doctors there will read his PET scan results and help him decide the best option of treatment going forward.
"The whole thing has been a huge transition. The diet is probably the biggest challenge for me since I could just stop at a McDonald's when I was hungry before, but now I have to watch what I eat," Webster said.
In addition to the Feb. 10 benefit, family and friends have also held meat raffles and spaghetti dinners and plan to hold more in the future.
"The whole thing was a positive experience. I would recommend anybody in this position weigh their options and look into Oasis of Hope," Webster said.
Webster used to work full time at Wilson Tool in the Cities as a second shift machinist, but has taken time off to focus on his battle with cancer.
Any gifts/silent auction donations for his benefit can be picked up by either Penny Crotty (call 715-969-9340) or Rachel Valesano (call 612-860-4206). Items can also be mailed/dropped off at: Amy McCune & Associates, 103 Main St., Somerset, WI 54025.
For more information on the benefit, visit the event's Facebook page by searching for "Benefit for Jake Webster" (facebook.com/events/511434526045814). For more information on the Jacob Webster Benefit Fund, visit the fund's Facebook page at facebook.com/jacobwebsterfund. Monetary donations can be dropped off or mailed to any Royal Credit Union branch under the name "Jacob Webster Benefit Fund."