By Chloe Senatore
TopLaxRecruits.com, Posted 1/17/21
Although Jacob Webb was in the best shape of his life at the premature end of his junior year thanks to COVID-19, he was mildly concerned about some odd neck pain that was making his daily workouts increasingly difficult.
“I didn’t think anything of it,” Webb said, “then I started having trouble running, like I couldn’t run. I would go to the beach and run like three or four miles every day and I physically couldn’t run so that’s when I knew something was up.”
And it only got worse from there for the star defenseman from The Kings Academy in West Palm Beach, FL.
Already committed to play defense at Albany, Webb went from playing lacrosse one day to discovering a life-threatening, paralysis-risking tumor the next.
After visits to the chiropractor failed to provide a diagnosis for his pain and weakness, Webb’s parents, Gina and Jake, took him for an MRI to see what they thought might be a simple pinched nerve, or maybe even a blood clot.
Instead they found a nasty tumor on the C7 part of his spine, right up on Webb’s neck.
“They were like ‘We have to remove it immediately. You’re going to have emergency surgery tomorrow and it’s going to be a 9-hour procedure,'” Webb said. “So I started to get really nervous.
“I was extremely calm. I think I was just having a hard time processing it because I was literally playing lacrosse the day before.”
With more MRI scans leading up to the surgery, Webb had a lot of time to think about what this surgery meant and how serious it was.
“Before I went in there [the MRI] they told me ‘There’s a good chance that you might have a stroke during this procedure,'” he said. “They said probably a 90% chance I go paralyzed!
“They said ‘We’re going to be honest with you, you’re not going to play lacrosse again.’ Their main goal was just that I could live.
“It was really weird to think about dying.”
Webb, however, refused to give in to the negative forecasts on his health and life – or his lacrosse career.
“For me, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I wasn’t going to play lacrosse again,” he said.
Prior to the operation, Webb’s oncology doctors wanted to take the whole tumor out because if they only took part of it out and it turned out to be cancerous, they’d have to do another risky surgery.
But removing the entire tumor would have ensured permanent paralysis because of the way it was pressing on Webb’s nerves.
“I told my surgeon ‘I really want to be able to play lacrosse again’ and out of all the other doctors who pretty much told me ‘No’ he was like ‘Hey I’ll try and give you a chance but it’s not going to be ideal,'” Webb said. “I told him to just give me a chance.”
So, Webb’s surgeon advocated for him to be able to play lacrosse again by deciding to not remove the entire tumor.
Although the tumor turned out to be benign (noncancerous), Webb was certainly not in the clear just yet.
“I thought I knew what pain was until that surgery,” Webb said.
Even with pain killers and lots of rest in the days after the surgery, Webb was in excruciating pain throughout his recovery.
“It feels like you’re getting stabbed in the neck,” he said. “And that’s not an exaggeration.”
But the pain didn’t stop him from beating the odds.
Originally, the doctors told Webb he would be in the hospital for two months and that he wouldn’t be able to play lacrosse again for at least two years.
Amazingly determined and motivated, Webb beat both of those odds. He was out of the hospital in one month and he was officially cleared to play lacrosse in under seven months after the surgery.
Recently, Webb signed his National Letter of Intent to play at Albany (see his commitment story) and he claims he’ll be ready to practice every day when the Florida preseason begins on Jan. 25.
During his recovery in the hospital, Webb was only permitted to see his parents once in a while due to COVID-19. He was alone for the most part.
“They told me I was going to be in the hospital for two months and I was like, ‘I need to get out of here, like I cannot be here by myself for the next two months,'” he recalled thinking. “So, I told them to take me off the pain meds and it hurt a ton, but I actually had energy and I was able to focus and do the physical therapy that they were telling me to do.”
Webb did twice the amount of physical therapy that his doctors told him to do so that he could get better as quickly as possible. He made playing lacrosse again his mission, to say the least.
“I worked my butt off; I did everything I possibly could to get to where I am,” he said. “But to be honest, without asking for help from God or anything like that, even that wouldn’t have been enough. I did my part and He got me the rest of the way there.”
Webb said that his faith definitely helped him persevere. He certainly had a lot of time to pray while he was in the hospital.
“God definitely healed me,” Webb said
Webb also said that a specific Winston Churchill quote helped him get through his recovery; “If you’re going through Hell, keep going.”
“Why stop in hell? Because if you’re going through Hell, why quit?” Webb said. “I wanted to quit sometimes so much… but I would be so mad at myself if I did that,” he said.
Webb said that his parents and his coaches at Albany were also a huge part of his support system.
Although he’s not yet back at his full capacity as a player, the Albany coaches told him in November that they would make sure he kept his full scholarship, even if he wasn’t going to be able to play.
“I think my parents did a good job on teaching me to have perspective on things,” said Webb. “I think that’s really important.”
Although he has been cleared to play in his senior season at his high school in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, he still has no feeling in his left leg whatsoever and he is still working on building back the thirty pounds of muscle he lost.
But that’s not anything Webb is going to let stop him.
Webb has no proprioception, or in layman’s terms, he has no feeling or awareness of his left leg at all, even though he’s able to move it around like normal.
“I don’t know where it’s at in space,” he said. “If you lifted my leg up, I wouldn’t know that you did it if I wasn’t looking… But I’ve done so much physical therapy that I’ve retrained my muscle memory and all that stuff to be able to run and do that stuff without feeling.”
Webb’s first game back in a club tournament with his high school was coincidentally seven months after his surgery to the day. Webb had to switch to attack instead of his usual defense position due to his recovery process.
He scored two goals in his first game back.
“It’s definitely tough, but one thing I’m not going to do is complain about it and whine about it,” Webb said.
Webb even said that he is looking at this whole awful experience as positively as possible.
“I think once I’m completely healed it will end up being for the better and help me,” said Webb. “That’s how I want to look at it. After I’m healed, there doesn’t seem like anything I can’t do.”
“It’s all mental. You can do it. Physically, there’s not many limits on you. It’s literally just mental blocks.”