When he was 13, Jacob Senden’s parents were told their son had two hours to live.
Now, the Flower Mound teen is feeling good with real hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps on the golf course.
Jacob, the son of PGA Tour player John Senden, was experiencing severe headaches, weakened balance and loss of appetite in April 2017. His parents took him to Children’s Medical Center Dallas, where doctors diagnosed him with an aggressive, malignant brain tumor.
“To get the news that your son has less than two hours to live, it turns your life upside down,” said Jackie Senden, Jacob’s mother. “They drained the fluid off his brain in the first few hours and said that if he makes it through the night, they’d take a biopsy.”
Jacob was quickly put on chemotherapy treatment for six months, followed by six weeks of radiation treatment. During that time he was “pretty much locked down at home or the hospital,” often bedridden for days at a time.
“That whole period from April to November, he couldn’t stand,” John said. “By Christmas of 2017, he couldn’t get his head off the pillow. They were tough times, but a slow progression of strength is coming back now.”
Jacob’s tumor shrunk from the size of a golf ball to smaller than a pea, and he’s still getting better every day.
“I’m feeling healthy, like I’m strong and positive,” Jacob said. “I still get a bit tired, but I feel really good in general.”
“It’s an absolute miracle, really,” Jackie said.
Bedridden for days at a time during treatment, Jacob had found a passion for Rubik’s Cubes. He quickly mastered them, and now has 30 different kinds. His best time to solve one is 19.5 seconds.
“I just love them,” he said.
Amid his treatment, a PGA Tour player and friend of the Sendens had a bunch of Rubik’s Cube patches made for players to wear on the course while John took indefinite leave from the tour.
“They handed them out to each player on the first tee,” John said. “What we saw, it proved to us the support we have.”
Jacob watched famous golf players don the patches for him, and it meant a lot to him.
“I felt really empowered to know that people in high places are supporting me,” Jacob said. “It helped me through it a lot to know there’s a whole community supporting me.”
The family also received tremendous support from the Flower Mound community and from the Children’s Health network, which “treated us as family,” John said.
“It was a very difficult experience to go through, so we are so grateful for the positive support we received from the staff, the surgeons and the nurses.”
Jacob’s life is just about back to normal now, though he still goes back to Children’s Health every three months for checkups. The 16-year-old is entering 10th grade at Liberty Christian School in Argyle, where he plays percussion in the band and is a member of the golf team. He hits the links often with his dad, who helps him perfect his game.
“He’s really improving at golf a lot,” John said. “He started playing at a young age, developing like a normal kid, but obviously he stopped playing for a long time. His game is looking good now, on average an 85 shooter.”
Jacob said before he got sick, he played a lot of different sports, but he’s been focusing on golf as he continues to rebuild strength and stamina. He loves the game and wants to give it his best shot after high school. If it doesn’t work out, though, he’s got options.
“I’m going to try to do golf, like my dad,” he said. “But if it’s taking too long to get where I’m trying to go, I’ll probably do something in music industry — or maybe in aerospace engineering … or maybe not play golf, but build clubs, that’d be something I would enjoy.”
Whatever lies ahead for the bright young man, Jacob’s success story is an emotional relief and celebration for his parents.
“We didn’t really have any idea that he would be as good as he is now,” Jackie said. “Every little thing he can do is quite amazing to us. Anything is possible for him.”
The Sendens are supporters of #PlayYellow, a Children’s Miracle Network initiative supporting children in local children’s hospitals, and say now if the perfect time for families to get involved with #PlayYellow with September being Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.