December 2018

Andrew Perez was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer, in his left tibia in April of last year. He required treatment multiple times a week for eight months at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.

Shortly after Andrew began treatment, his mom, Tammy, reached out to Jacob’s Heart and was immediately offered practical financial help with gas cards and groceries…and he met Mariela , a counselor who met with him in his home. Mariela survived cancer herself as a teenager, relapsing three times, before she was eligible for a life-saving stem cell transplant. Andrew learned he could talk to Mariela candidly about his feelings—the anger, depression, and fear that comes with battling a life-threatening disease— without worrying that he was burdening his family or friends. He figured, “If Mariela can go through this, so can I.”

“Jacob’s Heart was a good place for healing. Jacob’s Heart knows what you’re going through, and they can really empathize, so you can be really honest.”

For the past five years, Andrew has been active raising livestock through his 4-H club. Primarily he has raised pigs, showing and auctioning them off at local fairs in the region, with the goal of saving money for college. After his diagnosis Andrew switched to raising lambs; his doctors were concerned that any injury from raising a 250-pound pig might endanger his chances of keeping his leg.

The last pig he sold was after his diagnosis. Because he was in the middle of his cancer treatments, a friend showed Andrew’s pig at the King City Fair on his behalf. When word got out about the pig’s owner and his diagnosis, the pig became more than livestock, it quickly turned into a mini-fundraiser for Andrew. A bidding frenzy began as the community rallied for the Perez family, and the pig wound up selling for $26,000, more than 10 times the normal price at an auction.

As a result of that show-stopping pig and other auctions, Andrew had already saved $40,000 towards his college degree. To Andrew’s mind, $40,000 was enough for now and perhaps he should start raising money for something else he felt passionately about, like Jacob’s Heart. Andrew plans to attend Stanford—a place he has become very familiar with since his diagnosis—and, because of his own experiences, he has switched his career focus from anesthesiology to pediatric oncology nursing.

“I can’t ever fully repay Jacob’s Heart — but I’ll try my best.”

As a token of gratitude for all the support Jacob’s Heart gives him and other kids like him, Andrew decided to donate his next two auction proceeds to Jacob’s Heart. This year’s King City fair netted $2,500, and the auction in Santa Cruz brought in another $3,000.