Greencastle-Antrim High School junior gets new lease on life with stem cell transplant

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot

The Peer Leaders at Greencastle-Antrim High School will be reaching out at two events next week to help one of their peers who has battled leukemia for almost four years.

Jake Schaffer-Bream, a G-AHS junior, is recovering at Hershey Medical Center after undergoing a stem cell transplant nearly two months ago.

"Both events will give G-ASD families an opportunity to support Jake! #TEAMBREAM," the Peer Leaders wrote.

A teacher softball game will be held on Wednesday, May 26, and a drive-in movie is scheduled for Thursday, May 27.  

Jake Schaffer-Bream

Jake's journey

June 6, 2017, was just a normal day until Jake suddenly developed severe flu-like symptoms in the afternoon. Via email from Hershey this week, Jennifer Schaffer-Bream recalled her mother's intuition told her something was terribly wrong, she got Jake in her Jeep and headed to the emergency room at Chambersburg Hospital.

He was in a room by 5:30 p.m. with an IV started and blood work underway. By midnight, they were on their way to Hershey, where more tests determined Jake has chronic myeloid leukemia.

CML, which is found in the bone marrow, is not common in children, usually affecting adults older than 60, his mother said.

"Over the past four years he has had many trips to Hershey, a lot of blood work done, numerous bone marrow draws and several medication changes to try and get him into remission," according to his mother. She explained he has to be put to sleep for the bone marrow draws, which are very painful and involve using a large needle to take samples from his hip bone.

"The chemotherapy pills were not doing their job so that is what has brought us to this point," his mother said.

A new lease on life

On April 1, the 16-year-old received two liters of stem cells from "a very selfless young man that was on the national bone marrow registry," his mother said.

"I hope to be able to meet one day and thank him face to face," she continued. "He’s given my son a new lease on life."

Jake is "a pretty private kid and definitely does not like being in the spotlight, but he has shown me over these past four years, and especially these last few months, just how strong and amazing he is. He has never complained about what he’s had to go through or even questioned why.

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"Jake has just always played the hand that has been dealt to him. He is and will forever be my hero," she said. "This has been a long four years for him having to make adjustments along the way to how we’ve lived and to keep him safe from getting sick."

He is kind, caring and quiet, but also a jokester who likes to hang out with his friends and play video games. He hasn't decided what to do after he graduates from G-A High School next year, but is thinking about something in the computer field, maybe writing codes for games and creating new ones.

Jake, who will turn 17 on July 12, also can't wait to get back to work at Hardee's so he can start saving up some money, his mother said.

Helping hands

The family has received support from Hershey Medical Center, the Four Diamonds organization, the Jeff Musser Foundation and the Greencastle community that is "beyond amazing," Schaffer-Bream said.

"It means so much to my family there are really no words to even describe how we feel," she said. "I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart that has prayed for him and his recovery or even been able to donate anything. It’s all helped tremendously."

The Peer Leaders at Greencastle-Antrim High School will be reaching out at two events next week to help Jake Schaffer-Bream, a G-AHS junior with chronic myeloid leukemia, who is recovering at Hershey Medical Center after undergoing a stem cell transplant nearly two months ago.

Play ball

The teacher softball game will begin at 6 p.m. on the GASD softball field. Wearing blue, the high school and primary teachers will team up to take on the middle school and elementary teachers, wearing gold. 

Families are encouraged to attend and make a night of it.

Lizzy's Food Truck will be serving burgers, sides and ice cream beginning at 5:30 p.m. Butcher Shoppe cookies will be for sale, too.

A 50-50 drawing will support #TEAM BREAM.

In addition, students from Ross Winegardner’s human rights literature class are sponsoring a home run derby to support the local organization Go Girls Go! Batters will have their opportunity to swing for the fence in between innings of the softball game. The cost is $10.

At the movies

Peer leaders will be at the entrance of the Cumberland Drive-In Theater, 3290 Ritner Highway, Newville, to collect donations for Jake and his family.

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the movie "Space Jam" will begin at 8:30.