After two-year cancer fight, Jake Eastwood returns to basketball court

  • Written by Nathan Whalen
  • Published in Local
Jake Eastwood, 14, provides some coverage during a CYO playoff game in February. After fighting cancer for two years, Jake returned to his CYO basketball team at St. Mary Magdalen Parish. Photo: Courtesy Patrick Doyle Jake Eastwood, 14, provides some coverage during a CYO playoff game in February. After fighting cancer for two years, Jake returned to his CYO basketball team at St. Mary Magdalen Parish. Photo: Courtesy Patrick Doyle

EVERETT Less than a minute after stepping onto the basketball court Feb. 4, Jake Eastwood hit a three-pointer for his St. Mary Magdalen team.

“At which point the crowd went crazy,” CYO Athletics director Tauno Latvala recalled in an email.

Jake Eastwood
Jake Eastwood. Photo: Courtesy Patrick Doyle

Jake’s efforts helped his team continue to the next round of the CYO playoffs (though they didn’t make the finals), but returning to the court had an even bigger meaning for the 14-year-old.

Jake spent the last two years fighting bone cancer, a battle that cost him most of his left leg. After playing basketball with the same group of guys since second grade (and CYO basketball with them since fourth grade), Jake had to sit out the sixth- and seventh-grade seasons.

But his St. Mary Magdalen coach, Patrick Doyle, said he kept Jake on the roster for those seasons, “so he knows he has a home and a spot on my team.”

Cancer diagnosis

Jake was diagnosed in December 2014 with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, after he fell while sledding on a family Christmas trip to Utah. He complained of pain and his mother felt a bump on his left leg; X-rays indicated cancer.

Jake underwent surgery at Children’s Hospital in Seattle to remove the tumor, had 27 weeks of chemotherapy and a surgery to salvage his leg. But in August 2016, doctors found cancer in Jake’s knee.

His father, Chris Eastwood, said Jake elected to have doctors amputate his left leg above the knee, halfway to his hip. The surgery was done in September and Jake received his initial prosthetic in November.

“You pretty much have to learn to walk again,” Chris Eastwood said. But his son “was real determined to get on the basketball court,” he added.

Jake Eastwood playing
Jake Eastwood playing on Feb. 4. Photo: Courtesy Patrick Doyle

Just being a kid

Jake, who attended St. Mary Magdalen School for grades K-5 (he now attends Heatherwood Middle School in Everett), showed up for St. Mary Magdalen’s first basketball practice of the season last fall. He practiced again just before the playoffs started in February.

The team had to get special permission from CYO to allow Jake to compete in the playoffs. Normally, CYO youth have to play in half the season’s games to be eligible, but CYO officials granted an exception, Doyle explained.

Besides that three-pointer early in the game, Jake played part of the second and fourth quarters.

“It was just fun,” Jake said, adding that he felt good moving around on the court.

The game also became a benefit for the Northwest Sarcoma Foundation, raising more than $2,500. The Eastwood family, members of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Bothell, are continuing their fundraising efforts by participating in the foundation’s Dragonslayer Walk in Seattle on April 22 (donations can be made to their 20-person team).

Now that basketball is over, Jake is planning to compete with the Shadow Seals, a swim team whose members have physical disabilities. And he didn’t want to talk much about his cancer.

“He just wants to be a 14-year-old kid,” Chris Eastwood said.