Physical therapy may look like fun, but it’s hard work for a little boy who’s had the world knocked from under him.

According to the Center For Disease Control (CDC), a 2nd grader from Commerce Township is one of only seven in the world to battle a rare form of brain cancer. And as WWJ’s Kathryn Larson finds out — 8-year-old Jake Pesta is beating the odds, and his family is working to make sure all children facing cancer are as lucky as he is.

The boy’s ordeal all began when he was five. He fell from a wobbly stool suffering a concussion. His mother Shelly Pesta, a former oncology nurse, suspected bleeding on the brain when Jake started walking funny.

Nothing could have prepared her for the diagnosis he would receive. Jake’s mom didn’t give up even though two doctors said her son wouldn’t live.

The two traveled across the US to the leading pediatric cancer doctors. Shelly Pesta described the experience saying, “The one thing that’s so awful is that these kids’ childhoods are robbed away from them. You know, when you’re at St. Jude’s, when you’re at MD Anderson Cancer Center, when you’re at the proton centers, when you walk into the pediatric centers at DMC — I don’t care where you’re at. You see the worst of the worst.

She’s starting an organization to help kids in the same situation. “There’s a 120 different neoplasms, or brain tumor types, in pediatrics that there’s no research for. There’s no study for,” Shelly Pesta said.

And that’s why she’s hoping to raise $2 million in Metro Detroit with a new organization to punch out pediatric cancer.

Today, Jake Pesta can’t be called cancer free until he reaches the five-year mark, but as he undergoes physical therapy at Dr. Neil King’s in Rochester Hills — Jake knows he’s beating the odds.

For more information and to support the cause, visit

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