For Jake Silver, this is no ordinary Super Bowl.
The teenager from Ashland, Massachusetts, who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma nearly three years ago, is on his way to Atlanta, where he’ll root for the New England Patriots and cross another big item off a bucket list that has taken on a new urgency in recent days. Silver, dealing with fluid on his lungs that keeps him from flying, boarded a train in Boston Thursday morning with his mother, Melissa Duca. His father, Rob, sister, Halle, and stepdad, Tony, will join them in Atlanta for what, win or lose, should be a weekend filled with precious family moments.
After debilitating bouts of chemo, multiple surgeries, radiation and a drug trial, Silver has chosen “to beat cancer by living his life to the fullest,” his mom wrote on the Team Jake Facebook page after his latest doctor visit.
“They said, ‘We can’t do the surgery. You have, like, 20 plus tumors on your lung,’” Silver said in mid-January, describing a hospital visit to Boston’s NBC affiliate. “They said I have three to six months left.”
Since then, Silver, a former high school kicker and aspiring sportscaster, has turned his attention to a bucket list dotted with sporting events. He has been courtside at Celtics games and recently met Coach Brad Stevens, Gordon Hayward and the team, which gave him a Silver jersey with the number 19 for his upcoming birthday. He was at Gillette Stadium for the Patriots’ victory over the Chargers in the divisional round of the playoffs. He said that his favorite teams win when he’s at their games and, come Sunday, he will be in a seat at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, rooting for the Patriots. (He predicted a 31-28 victory, with Tom Brady as MVP, by the way.)
Although Silver roots for the Pats and Brady, he has become friends with Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, who has worn an orange SilverStrong bracelet during games, through his sister and his grandfather, who, like Elliott, played at Ohio State.
Anonymous donors have made it their mission to help with Jake’s bucket list, and the SilverStrong effort has extended through their Ashland community, where residents tied orange-and-silver bows to their doors and mailboxes.
“I honestly don’t know how everybody got everything going,” his mother said of their visit to the Patriots’ playoff game. “There were so many chefs in the kitchen, so to say, that I don’t even know whose call or who knew who got it done except I know [the Patriots] were just bombarded with phone calls to the point where I’m sure they were just thinking, “Let’s just get this kid in so people stop calling us.’ “
After Sunday’s game, Jake and his mother plan to drive to the Four Corners area in the American Southwest, with his stepdad and Halle meeting them for the drive to Salt Lake City and Yellowstone. He’d love to see the giant redwoods, but the northern California national park is too far, so he’ll focus on getting to Yellowstone.
“He’s always wanted to go to Yellowstone and see the animals,” his mother said. “He’s always wanted to see the sequoias, so my dad bought him an Oculus and he loves it, so I’m hoping maybe we can get the sequoia trees on that and feel what it would be like to be near them.”
Silver’s birthday is on Feb. 24, a day after his family will go to Syracuse for the Orangemen’s game against Duke, capping a whirlwind tour of memory-making for the teenager and his family — and so many others.
“I can’t really thank them enough for what they do,” Jake said last week, interrupting a breathing treatment for a phone interview. “They’re making the rest of my six months so much easier and kind of distracting from the dying part. All the support and offers of games and anything else they can do here and there … it’s really nice.”