Munoz Back in Play After Tackling Cancer Twice


Enrique Paz

Jacob Munoz, a two-time cancer survivor finally playing on the field during a varsity football game on Oct. 18, 2019. Photo by: Enrique Paz

By Sariah Penn, Klein Cain High School

This past Friday in a football match up Klein Cain vs Klein Forest, Jacob Munoz not only fulfilled his promise to himself to get back on the football field, but he also made two plays against Klein Forest landing him two tackles.

“It felt amazing to finally achieve a goal that I’ve set since the day I got out of the hospital,” Jacob Munoz said. “It was fun being able to play again with all my teammates, and especially being able to win together as a team.”

While the sidelines went ballistic cheering and supporting with tears of joy, the final buzzer rang, making it his first-ever win since he was declared cancer-free. As Jacob ran off the field, he embraced his teammates and coaches who helped him in his fight.

“Seeing Jacob on the field was something I prayed for every day since he relapsed,” Jacob’s sister Juliana Munoz said. “It was the proudest I’ve been of him since I saw him push himself so hard every day to be able to do what he loves again.”

Though Jacob has been fighting for the chance to get back on the field, his fight began on Jan. 25, 2015 after being taken to the hospital for a persistent headache. While examining him, the doctors found that Jacob’s white blood cell count was concerningly high and pulled the Munoz’s aside to further their testing. As the hands of the doctors worked frantically running tests and labs on Jacob, they found he had a genetic abnormality called the Philadelphia Chromosome, a cancer cell found in the bone marrow.

Photo by: Enrique Paz
Munoz confronting a Klein Forest opponent blocking his way in an effort to aid his team. Photo by: Enrique Paz

“After routine blood work, we were taken into a private room where we were told our son was dying of cancer,” Jacob’s mother Yvette Munoz said. “It was a tough and painful road but Jacob got through it.”

Although Jacob was immediately transferred to Texas Children’s Hospital, he made a promise to beat cancer and get back on the football field. Soon after learning about Jacob’s cancer, the Munoz family created a Facebook support group called “Jacob’s fight.” While text messages, calls, and social media flooded with support, the Munoz’s prayed in hopes Jacob would fight through the 24 to 48 hours he was given left to live.

“Some nights were harder than others, but having other siblings at home while my parents and Jacob were at the hospital really helped me get through it,” Juliana Munoz said.

Through the pain, Jacob continued fighting day in and day out landing him the phrase “Jacob Strong.” While his body was tested with threatening illnesses like pneumonia, septic shock, and infection, he received support from his former sports teams and the community as they followed his fight. In addition to his former sports teams, friends and family, Jacob also received support from the Houston Rockets and several universities.

Soon, Jacob became an inspiration to people all over battling cancer, and the Facebook page “Jacob’s fight” accrued 68,312 likes. As Jacob’s support increased over time, his former jersey number, 33, became a symbol to the community and appeared on several Jacob Strong shirts. With the community standing with him in his fight, Jacob continued to fight, and on Jan. 13, 2017, Jacob was declared with complete remission.

“I didn’t have the words to fully express myself,” Yvette Munoz said. “I had such a rush of emotions, and for the first time I was speechless.”

While the Munoz family had hoped Jacob’s nightmare was in the past, in December of 2017, Jacob relapsed, sending him into his second fight against leukemia. After hearing the news of Jacob’s relapse, several friends, and family visited Jacob in the hospital to demonstrate their support in his second fight.

Photo by: Enrique Paz
Munoz standing in the sidelines towards the end of the game. Photo by: Enrique Paz

After numerous operations, chemotherapy and blood platelet transfusions, on February 22, 2018, Jacob had officially beaten cancer for the second time and was declared cancer-free. Although the community celebrated Jacob’s win with parades and special visits, Jacob remained fixed on his promise to himself and began attending football practice after school. After months of practice, preparation, and patience Jacob was given a chance to fulfill his vow.

“[I’m] blessed to be able to come back onto the field and play with my brothers again,” Jacob Munoz stated. “I love this team and am so glad to be a part of it… Thank you to every coach, teammate, and the community who cheered me on through this whole process, I appreciate and love all of y’all.”

This story was originally published on Cain Live on October 25, 2019.