‘I’m really happy’: Spokane teen with terminal brain cancer graduates early

MEAD, Wash. – Seventeen-year-old Jaden Baer was determined to make it to graduation, despite battling terminal brain cancer. Doctors originally gave him up to nine months to live. That was 14 months ago.

In the last year of talking with Jaden, he told 4 News Now he’d make it to graduation, in spite of everything he was going through.

He finally made it to that day Thursday. The Mead School District granted the family’s wishes in giving him an early graduation, as his family wanted him to experience this milestone while still healthy.

On Thursday, he ended up being the first person to graduate from Mead’s Class of 2021, and the first person to graduate in the new Union Stadium.

“I’m happy about that, I’m really happy,” he said smiling.

Life is a journey; one that we want filled with many happy moments. Thursday, Jaden walked toward another happy moment in his life, getting his diploma.

In his 17 years of living, he’s already dealt with more hardship than many people can imagine. Jaden was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in February of 2020. The family looked for someone to help remove it, but it was determined it was not possible. The tumor was growing on a part of his brain that cannot be touched. Since then, Jaden was going through treatment for cancer, even shrinking the tumor.

As he was battling the brain tumor for the last year and two months, Jaden and his family hit another road bump.

While visiting a friend in Texas, Jaden ended up hospitalized from a blood clot. Doctors were not able to remove the clot in his heart, saying that it’s possible it could dislodge and take his life. He’s currently on blood thinners, but as a result, he had to stop taking cancer medication.

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“The battle of cancer is a different type of battle. To get a separate battle on top of it, it kind of shakes you to the core. But, nobody told us what this journey would look like and the bumps you’d hit along the way,” said Jessica Eckersley, Jaden’s mom.

It was a low moment in Jaden’s life. But, now, he’s making the most of it alongside people who have been there from the very start.

Jaden’s wish was to graduate with his friends. They walked with him, one played a song for him, and a few others read speeches to him and the large crowd that showed up for him.

“Without all the support that I have, the family, the friends, everything, I wouldn’t be anywhere if it wasn’t for them. So, thank you guys,” Jaden said to the crowd.

Even through his own struggles, Jaden has been there for his friends and family whenever they’re in need. He knows this isn’t easy for them, too.

“Jaden is definitely the type of person that can make the room as joyful as possible because he’s such a positive person,” said Elias Cabaellero, Jaden’s friend.

“We’re all proud to be walking along side you, Jaden,” another friend said to him up on the podium.

The 17-year-old received his diploma Thursday afternoon, while his friends received a place holder, as they wait for graduation in June. While he already graduated, Jaden said he hopes he can go to class a few more times.

“Jaden taught us how to live… Thank you for letting us love you,” said Jeff Naslund, the principal of Mead High School.

The Mead High School graduate has touched so many lives and found so many people he loved, all in his own journey of life.

“The doctor’s orders were to just get him home. Get him home to his friends and his family,” Jaden’s stepfather Brian Eckersley said to a crowd. “Jaden, you look around. We made it.”

So, what’s next for Jaden and his family?

They’re taking it day by day, hoping and believing he’ll get to enjoy many other milestones down the road.

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