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Thursday, November 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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West Valley’s Jace Malek signs with Vandals, but cancer detours plans

West Valley fullback Jace Malek displays his just-signed letter of intent to play football at the University of Idaho. West Valley teachers and administrators are by his side wearing the "Malek Strong" t-shirts. Malek has bone cancer and will begin treatment next week.   (Courtesy of West Valley HS)
West Valley fullback Jace Malek displays his just-signed letter of intent to play football at the University of Idaho. West Valley teachers and administrators are by his side wearing the "Malek Strong" t-shirts. Malek has bone cancer and will begin treatment next week. (Courtesy of West Valley HS)

It didn’t seem like anything serious at the time.

West Valley standout football player Jace Malek felt some pain in his right hip in a game in late September.

Then in the Eagles’ next-to-last game, Malek took a hit from a helmet. The pain came back.

Early in the wrestling season, the pain began to nag again. He went to a chiropractor and he couldn’t alleviate the discomfort. The chiropractor recommended a physical therapist who recommended getting an MRI.

And there it was plain as can be and as big as a cantaloupe – a tumor attached to both sides of the hip.

Malek, who turns 18 in two weeks, is just learning the specific names and spellings of the cancer. A biopsy last week revealed it’s bone cancer. And because of its size, he can’t have it removed yet.

He will begin chemotherapy next week. It could last up to a year. He also will undergo radiation.

As soon as Malek saw the tumor, he called University of Idaho coach Paul Petrino. Malek had given Idaho an oral commitment last fall.

“He wished me the best and said that Idaho would be there the whole time,” Malek said.

Idaho wanted Malek to sign his letter of intent Wednesday so he did.

“Coach Petrino told me that Idaho isn’t going anywhere and that I had their complete support,” Malek said.

Petrino sent Malek a No. 99 Vandals jersey, the same number he wore at WV, for him to wear when he signed his letter.

Malek and his family were shocked when they saw the MRI.

“The tumor had to be in there some time for it to be that large,” Malek’s mother, Anna Ackerman, said. “When his hip got hit, it was hit just right that it irritated it enough. That was a blessing. It let us know it was there.”

Malek had a full body scan earlier this week and some smaller tumors were found in his chest.

“The doctor said they’re related to the hip,” Ackerman said. “The doctor said it’s not a good thing, it lessens your chances of getting cured. But he said it’s still curable.”

It’s Malek’s dream to be a football coach some day.

“It’s always been my dream to play in college,” Malek said. “If I can’t then I want to do an internship with a coach at Idaho. I want to learn every piece of the coaching game, inside and out. That will definitely set me up well for the first coaching job I get.”

Malek knows that playing football again may not be in the picture.

“I’m preparing myself for what I think reality is going to be,” he said. “I don’t need to hurt myself any more. I’m just going to do what I need to do. I’m going to attack this straight on and do what I have to do to beat it.”

WV wrestling coach Mike Bundy has established a fund to help Malek defray medical costs. It can be found at gofundme.com.

Friends also have set up a Facebook page (tacklecancer99) to keep people updated on Malek’s progress.

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