In the eyes of his grandma, Jacob Sypert is Superman. Deborah Hostatler of Niles said this holiday season, Jacob is what she is most thankful for after he inspired her to beat lung cancer while fighting a cancer battle of his own.
Hostatler was diagnosed in June 2010 and underwent an operation that fall in which a third of her lung was removed.
The doctors didn't give her a cause for the cancer, but Hostatler said she blames her smoking habit.
Deborah Hostatler of Niles and her grandson, Jacob Sypert, 10, share a loving moment in her home on Thursday. Hostatler said she is thankful for Jacob and that his courageous fight against cancer gave her strength to battle her own. Although Jacob is still undergoing treatment, both grandma and grandson are now cancer-free.
She said Jacob was her rock and encouraged her to quit smoking after previous attempts to do so were unsuccessful. After smoking for 20 years, she has now been cigarette-free for two.
"I said, 'I can quit this because he's been through so much,'" she said.
Jacob Sypert, 10, of Mineral Ridge, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and recently underwent a bone marrow transplant. He is also cancer-free, but it wasn't easy and he still is undergoing treatments that leave him exhausted.
"I still need like blood transfusions and stuff. My veins don't do good on IVs," he said, showing a large bruise on his arm from a procedure he had the day before. "I can feel the medicine going in. I would feel the G-tube going through my nose and down my throat," he said with a shudder.
"He has to have bloodwork every week. He had to have a scope yesterday," said his mom, Joy Sypert.
She said the preparation leading up to Jacob's bone marrow transplant was worse than the procedure itself.
"A lot of puking," Jacob recalled of the 3 1/2 years of high-dose chemotherapy to prepare his body for the new marrow.
"They basically take you as close to death as you can get," Joy Sypert explained.
This was Jacob's second battle with leukemia - he had been clean for 15 months until doctors informed the family that Jacob had relapsed. That was when Hostatler - lovingly referred to as "Bubba," which, she said, is Slovak for grandma - took up smoking again.
"Just knowing he had to do it for so long. It was just really hard on us, on all of us," Hostatler said.
"Two days ater he relapsed, my Mom passed away. The dog died while we were away at Akron (Children's Hospital)," Joy Sypert said.
Jacob said it is hard to pinpoint the most difficult thing he endured during his fight with cancer.
"I don't know, there's so many things. I wasn't allowed to eat at McDonald's - the one doctor said that she would get me some the next day, but my blood count dropped," he recalled.
Jacob was once confined to the hospital for 99 days, and after his bone marrow transplant, he had even more restrictions.
He wasn't allowed to see anybody after the transplant, wasn't allowed to eat any food that had been sitting out for more than an hour.
Now, he is still not allowed to be near anyone who is sick and will have to repeat all of his baby shots / vaccines because the bone marrow transplant wiped out the ones he had.
"He wasn't able to do a lot, but's going to do it now," Hostatler said. "We're not going to have any more setbacks, are we, Jacob?"
She said the family appreciates all of the people who have helped Jacob over the years, including several fundraisers held in his honor to help family with medical costs and travel expenses.
His first fundraiser was a bowling fundraiser thrown by workers at Delphi Packard.
"People who work at Packard really stand by their fellow employees," she said. "He got a lot of help from really good people."
For the holidays, Jacob is looking forward to seeing his favorite superhero, Batman, in "The Dark Knight Rises." He also is hoping to find a puppy underneath the Christmas tree.
"(Santa) could get a box and put holes in it and then wrap it up," he said, smiling.
Hostatler's advice for those battling cancer is to listen to the doctor.
"Do what your doctor says," she said.
And Jacob's advice? "Don't smoke," he said.
Hostatler said Jacob still inspires her every day.
"He's been through so much. He's brave and strong and if he could, he'd probably fly," she said. "He's a great influence on me. He's helped me through it all."