EFFINGHAM (WCIA) — There’s a saying that has been taken over from the Effingham football program: “The hardest team wins.” Jacob Briggerman had to live the hardness mantra day in and day out in his senior year. After surgery to repair a broken ankle in early 2020, Briggerman noticed pain in the same leg during soccer practice in November.
“I didn’t really like it, it didn’t bother me that much,” says Briggerman.
After being convinced to have it examined, the doctor took X-rays of Jacob’s left leg and found that he had Ewing’s sarcoma. It is a rare form of bone cancer that affects only about 225 children in the United States each year.
“He went and was watched and then he told me. “You’re not sure where you’re going,” says Briggerman’s teammate Nate Thompson.
“He didn’t even blink and said, ‘Doctors are 99 percent sure it’s cancer.’ I was floored,” Hefner said.
“I trained three times a week and did a lot of things,” Briggerman says. “Riding four-wheelers, playing basketball, soccer and everything else. I had to go from all that… to nothing.”
Doctors were optimistic because they discovered the cancer early. Briggerman had to undergo 14 chemotherapy sessions at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Despite all this, he never let the hardships keep a smile from his face.
“I actually did pretty well,” Briggerman says. “There are children who throw up a lot more than I do. Last time I vomited, but that was just because I ate bad food.”
“I never, ever heard him say he was having a bad day.” says Hefner. “Every time I talked to him and asked, ‘Hey, how are you?’ “I’m fine, I’m fine.” Even though he probably wasn’t.”
Doctors removed the cancerous tumor and replaced it with a piece of his right fibula. After months of treatment and more than a dozen trips to St. Louis, Briggerman finished chemo on July 25.
“Apparently I have not [cancer] no more,” Briggerman says. “There are some tests coming up to clarify that. It looks pretty good.”
Briggerman missed his senior football season under treatment. He could be on the sidelines for a few games, but was always on the field. Every Effingham player had his number on the back of his helmet. And after the Hearts won the conference championship, Briggerman got the game ball.
“There was no other person who deserved it more than Jacob there. It was a no-brainer,” Thompson said.
“It was a special moment, I didn’t expect it at all,” Briggerman says. “It’s special to know that they think of me, that means a lot to me.”
Briggerman graduated on time this spring and is ready to move on and get started. but he will always embody what he learned with the Hearts.
“I mean, the toughest team wins, the toughest person wins,” Briggerman says. “If you’re pounding through your head for three or four years, you’re going to keep doing it because it works.”