Members of Pleasanton's police, firefighter and city employee unions joined together last Saturday for a fundraising barbecue benefit in support of two colleagues battling cancer.
Donations from the dinner, which are still being tallied, will go to funding mechanisms set up to help Kyle Henricksen, a 36-year-old Pleasanton Police Department officer who is being treated for pancreatic cancer, and Ben Jacobs, 37, a water distribution operator in the city's utilities division, who started receiving chemotherapy for blood cancer in April.
The Pleasanton Police Officers Association has held other fundraisers for Kyle, including one last November when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer that had metastasized to his stomach lining. That online rally raised $75,000 in a week's time as Kyle moved his treatment to a self-pay basis at Stanford Medical Center when Kaiser Permanente, his insurer, said it could not handle the treatment needed.
The family also created a GoFundMe campaign -- called "Help Kyle Kick Cancer" -- which as of this week has raised $117,205 of its current $135,000 goal.
Neither Kyle nor Ben were able to leave their hospital beds to attend last weekend's benefit at the Pleasanton Senior Center where both were toasted with wishes of speedy recoveries. Nicole Jacobs was there with Ben's mother Christy Jacobs to represent her husband and thank supporters. Kyle's wife Jennifer had planned to drive in from their home in Manteca, but Kyle's precarious condition kept her with him at Sutter Memorial Hospital in Modesto, where he's being treated.
Jennifer described last week having "a roller coaster of a couple of days," with an emotional let-down when their oncologist determined that Kyle is not in condition for surgery. That had been a planned procedure to stop the cancer's growth. Just months earlier, biopsies at Stanford were showing his cancerous tumors shrinking.
So, late Sunday, Kyle was transferred back to Stanford for new assessments from that medical center's oncology team.
"Thank you everyone for the well wishes, prayers, good vibes," Jennifer wrote on Facebook Monday. "Please keep them coming and hope that Stanford has some answers/options for us!"
Jennifer spends as much time as she can at the hospital, going home at night to be with their four children: Destani, 19; Alyssa, 18; Zoey, 12; and Cohen, 10.
I also had a chance to talk to Ben by phone from his bed at Stanford Medical Center on Saturday. His news was better. Doctors had just told him that a biopsy of his recent bone marrow transplant showed he is now cancer-free. The procedure started after doctors at Kaiser Permanente in Antioch diagnosed him last April with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS).
Nicole and Ben have three children: Brooke, 11; Betsy, 5; and Bruce, 18 months old. Because of the distance from their Brentwood home to Stanford in Palo Alto, Ben hasn't been seeing the kids as frequently as he'd like, but with FaceTime he sees and talks to them most days. His mother Christy cares for the children when Nicole drives the 62 miles to Stanford.
"She's been my rock," Ben said.
He credits his co-workers in Pleasanton and supporters at the two churches his family attends in Brentwood with the support that gave him the strength to go through the difficult cancer treatments. "At first, they didn't think I was going to make it," he said. "But the good doctors and my faith just kept pushing me. I decided I'm not giving up."
"I put my trust in God," Jacobs added. "My faith, church and support groups helped me all through this. It's been truly amazing."