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Farmington family grateful for community support as son fights brain cancer

The community is supporting Jacob “JD” Dentinger, a Farmington High graduate and drummer, who is now fighting brain cancer and studying to become a music teacher. Photo by Kara Hildreth

Heroes come to rescue and remind us all how precious life can be and how to live life more fully.

That is what Jacob "JD" Dentinger is doing today.

JD, 20, is a 2016 graduate of Farmington High School who is a passionate percussionist that decided to pursue a career in music education at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire so he can teach high school music.

Music on pause

April 10, 2018 was a day that put a small pause on his life. That was the day JD was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a form of aggressive brain cancer. The same brain cancer that took Sen. John McCain's life last week.

"JD's tumor is unfortunately located in the center of his brain where the thalamus gland is and that controls all of our functions," said JD's mother, Sue Dentinger. "Since that is where the tumor is located, he is not eligible for surgery."

JD is being treated with a successful round of radiation and oral chemotherapy. Recently, JD received good news that the oblong, golf ball-sized brain tumor has shrunk by 25 percent.

An early warning sign came in 2016 when JD was attending a University of Minnesota hockey game. He fainted over the bar while up in the stands.

"He fainted a few more times and we took him back in," said his father Paul Dentinger.

A year and a half later, JD passed out in the shower during his sophomore year in college.

"I started to get headaches and I would go into my dorm room and turn off all the lights," JD said.

At home, a CT scan discovered the tumor tested to be cancer.

In early April, JD had spinal fluid drained from his brain membrane to relieve the pressure and alleviate headaches.

"The biggest risk is if the tumor does not quit growing, you do not have space in your brain to allow for that pressure," Paul said.

Healthy, strong

Today, JD appears healthy and strong and is attending college. He loves playing drums and is learning to play the acoustic guitar. JD will need to learn every musical instrument to become a music teacher.

When asked if this brain tumor diagnosis has changed him, JD said quite calmly "In some ways, I guess, but I take things day by day and it is what it is."

"JD is a pretty happy, go-lucky guy and does not let much bother him," Sue said.

His younger brother, Lucas, follows in JD's footsteps as a drummer who plays baseball and is learning to hunt and fish. The two brothers have grown closer in recent months.

"It is crazy how much support you receive — here in Farmington they threw him a benefit and we received donations from Pizza Man and Chick-Fil-A, and it is amazing; we don't know how to thank people," Sue said.

This summer there was a musical benefit held at Glenhaven in Farmington. Many came to raise money and enjoy music with JD who played the drums alongside fellow musicians and band teachers. The event offered hope, joy, food and donated silent auction items to support JD.

Due to the recent death of McCain, Sue believes more research funding will be directed to fight or understand glioblastoma.

"I think one of the most positive, overwhelming parts of this is the tremendous amount of support we have received from the community with baseball, the Boy Scouts and Tiger Fan Club," Sue said.

Curious student

Erin Holmes, director of bands at Farmington High School, said "JD was always a curious kid who worked so hard and was asking questions and hanging out in the drum room."

Laughing about how JD liked many styles of music and liked to play the band Queen's famous song called "Fat Bottom Girls," Holmes said JD connected with her. She remembers all the conversations about music and their connection with the punk band REEL Big Fish that play music infused with jazz, guitar, drums and wind instruments.

"JD is just amazing and was always so helpful and wanted to go above and beyond and he did so much to help the band kids," Holmes said.

JD will become a fantastic music teacher, Holmes said. "Watching him with the other students and seeing his patience, it was remarkable because he is an amazing human at such a young age — he is not like other teenagers who are always thinking of themselves," she added.

"I hope my boys grow up to be like Jacob and Lucas," Holmes added.

This August the family traveled on vacation to the Boundary Waters and was able to spend time together along with JD's girlfriend, Lizzy Sanders.

"It was wonderful to give him a chance to return to a place he loves where there were not phones, TVs, clocks and very limited Wi-Fi, so it was truly a time to relax and enjoy the outdoors," Sue said.

Sue openly compares JD's battle with cancer to the former Superman actor Christopher Reeve's famous, life sustaining words: "An ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."

Sue added "JD is our hero."