Rocklin teen lives the dream

Make-A-Wish Foundation sends football fan to Pro Bowl
By: Lauren Weber, The Placer Herald
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Jesse Leimbach, a 15-year-old Rocklin resident, has a love for football and basketball, and has been a Raiders fan since he was a baby. He has a tough time choosing his favorite football player, but Michael Vick, Randy Moss, Jerry Rice and Walter Peyton are all on the list. Punt receiver is his favorite football position to play, and he dreams of joining the NFL some day. But despite acting and talking about sports like any other 15-year-old, Leimbach was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma in 2006, a cancer affecting the bone, which made him eligible to make a wish through the Make-A-Wish foundation. Leimbach's wish came true last week when he hopped on an airplane to Hawaii to attend the Pro Bowl. Besides getting to watch the game, he met the team, attended a luau and went to the beach everyday. It was a great wish, Jesse's grandmother Marion Leimbach said. I don't think he was disappointed in any way. Jesse not only returned from Hawaii with a tan, but also brought back footballs signed by the Pro Bowl players and photos of himself standing alongside players like Peyton Manning. Jesse started playing football three years ago for the Rocklin Junior Thunder team. He was number 80 and played up until his diagnosis. But Jesse said he isn't letting the cancer rule his life. I'm playing football my sophomore year, no matter what, said Jesse, now a freshman. When Jesse talks about the cancer, it's easy to forget he's only 15. He seems to have the emotional strength of someone much older. It's a whole different world, you don't realize there are so many sick kids. They're all so brave, Marion said. You don't have a choice. You wouldn't have a choice but to be brave, Jesse said. I have big dreams I wanted to do. Go to the NFL, and be somebody. Besides having to grow up quickly, Jesse tries to lead a normal teenage life. He has a girlfriend he's been seeing for about nine months. He said he eats beef Top Ramen everyday and considers himself a meatatarian, meaning he doesn't eat green things. He's still able to jog and toss the football around. Jesse is keeping up with his education with an independent study program he completes at home, his grandparent's house, and hopes to return to school soon. Hopefully he can go to school next year. We kind of have to take it day to day, Marion said. Jesse continues to go through chemotherapy, and starts on a new oral chemotherapy soon. We thought his cancer would be gone by now. The doctors are just trying to sustain his life as long as they can now, Marion said. He's a tough kid. The doctors were impressed. What's the point of living in a shell of sadness if you can be happy? Jesse said. In 2006, before Jesse was diagnosed, the symptoms of his cancer were small “ a little lump on his side, side aches and a fever. With a quick diagnosis, Jesse started treatment immediately. Now the cancer has made its way into Jesse's lungs, but the Leimbach's are hopeful the chemotherapy will stifle the cancer. While in the hospital, a social worker told Jesse that he was eligible to participate in the Make-A-Wish program. And with the help of Make-A-Wish and Race Place Motorsports' sponsorship, Jesse's wish was granted, one of more than 3,000 wishes granted in the Sacramento area since the Sacramento chapter's start in 1983, said Sarah Jimenez, the public relations manager with Make-A-Wish. They chose Jesse's wish to sponsor, which was super, Marion said. It's just something you can't comprehend how wonderful.