Cancer took Jake Olson's eyesight when he was 12 years old, but that didn't stop him from achieving his dream of playing football for Southern California.
This is anything but a regular PAT.— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) September 3, 2017
Jake Olson, blind since age 12, just snapped for the first time in a live game. https://t.co/amyHcFoVue
The Trojans' long snapper, who's scheduled to graduate in May with a degree in business administration, wants to make sure no one has to lose their eyesight from Retinoblastoma. Olson's childhood doctor has been working on a cure for the disease, and has developed a device Olson says in a letter "would have allowed me to see today" had it been around when he was a child:
The Episcleral Topotecan device, or what we’ll refer to as the chemo plaque, is a non-invasive reservoir that is implanted in the eye. The device delivers direct chemo, Topotecan, to the tumors and vitreous seeds located within the eye and the results have been astounding. Last year, two children who had one tumorous eye left and who had maxed out on every other treatment option, were completely cured through the use of the chemo plaque.
To help raise money for the device's clinical trial, Olson is participating in the bench press as USC's Pro Day on March 20. Donations can be in the form of a one-time flat donation or a per-rep pledge here.
"Funds raised up to US $200,000 will be split 50/50 between Retinoblastoma research supporting Dr. Branda Gallie and Uplifting Athletes" Olson writes. "For proceeds above and beyond US $200,000, 80% will be directed towards Dr. Branda Gallie’s research and 20% will be directed to support Uplifting Athletes and their mission to inspire the Rare Disease Community with hope through the power of sport."
My mom and doctor didn’t know I was listening to their conversation.
“No more options,” my doctor said. “We will have to remove his remaining eye.”,
I held the old, bulky telephone closer to my ear and the unthinkable reality of going blind sunk in. It was similar to previous conversations, but the past seven times my cancer returned we had a solution that wouldn’t cost me my sight. I was 12 years old.
My sudden screaming cut their conversation short. As my mom ran upstairs to console me, I pleaded with her: How could we not fight it with something?
More chemo? I had already undergone a lifetime max of systemic chemo. More radiation? No, I had maxed out and was at a high risk of inducing a secondary fatal cancer. More laser treatment or cryotherapy? The cancer had become immune, it would no longer affect the tumors. How about where they go up my leg? No, the cancer would no longer respond to intra-arterial chemotherapy, we have done it too many times. PLEASE, I was begging, ANYTHING!
To read the rest of his letter, go here.
The Trojans invited Olson to join them at practice before doctors removed his remaining eye, and he became a national news story. Olson then joined USC as a walk-on in 2015, and made two in-game snaps in 2017.