Texas firefighters surprise fan who beat aggressive cancer

Jacob Ibarra rang a celebratory bell and the siren of a Lubbock Fire Rescue fire engine after completing his treatments

Shambhavi Rimal
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

LUBBOCK, Texas — After almost two and a half years of treatment, Jacob Ibarra was able to "ring the bell" at Covenant Children's Hospital this week.

His celebration was so fired up, it drew a crew from Lubbock Fire Rescue to join in for a surprise.

Jacob Ibarra, 20, is a big fan of firefighters. He got to meet several Lubbock firefighters on Wednesday.
Jacob Ibarra, 20, is a big fan of firefighters. He got to meet several Lubbock firefighters on Wednesday. (Photo/Tribune News Service)

The 20-year-old is a huge fan of firefighters and all things firefighting. His oncology nurses thought it would be fun for Lubbock Fire Rescue crews to join him for his bell ringing. On Wednesday, Jacob rang the bell - along with the sirens of an LFR fire engine - and got to meet firefighters as part of his celebration marking the completion of his cancer treatments.

Jacob, who has downs syndrome, was diagnosed in 2019 with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow that affects white blood cells.

Jacob's mother, Rosemary Ibarra, said oncologists at Covenant Children's Hospital started very aggressive treatments. Within a month of getting his first round of chemotherapy he was in remission. Although he's been in remission since then, he still had to go through all the chemo treatments and procedures to help make sure the cancer didn't return.

Jacob's treatments were a little different and less aggressive considering his downs syndrome, Rosemary added.

"The treatment took a little longer and it affected him a lot - it was a little harder for him," she said.

Rosemary said it was a difficult two and a half years for her son, and she was relieved when he'd completed his chemotherapy.

"He was a trooper every time, even though he was in pain or in the hospital," said Rosemary. "He still had a smile or a hug for everybody and he just loved everybody."

Rosemary said she's grateful her son is cancer free for now, describing it as the "biggest blessing ever."

"I hold on to the promise that no weapon formed against you, against us, shall prosper - not even leukemia, not even COVID," Rosemary said. "Nothing will prosper when we have God on our side."

Annessa Lawson, a registered nurse at Covenant Children's Hospital, said she's known Jacob since he was first diagnosed in the hospital a couple years ago. She said he's always been a bright and joyful presence.

Lawson said Jacob had come to visit the clinic once a month for his treatment. During every visit, he would incorporate fire trucks into his stories, frequently describing how he'd seen one long ago.

Lawson said that when she knew Jacob would be ringing the bell - a tradition for patients finishing their cancer treatment - it would be special if they could somehow arrange for Lubbock firefighters to participate in the process. She took the lead in organizing Wednesday's firefighter visit.

"It's just everything that I thought it would be when I dreamed it up and I sent the first email," Lawson said. "I'm just so happy and thrilled that we were able to celebrate Jacob."

Talking about what is next for Jacob, Lawson said that even though he's finished with therapy, Covenant's team will follow up with him every month for the first year.

After that, she said, those visits will be even less frequent, hopefully.


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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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