When a cake was brought out for children meeting their favorite characters at WrestleMania 29 in New Jersey earlier this month, Jacob Foster couldn’t eat any of it.
So WWE wrestler John Cena, who Foster admires most of all, gave the 12-year-old one of his arm bands.
“He was in the Marines and he was a rapper,” Foster said, listing reasons he likes Cena. “When he salutes the crowd, he means it. It’s for the Marines and all the fans. And he’s one of the nicest wrestlers, ever.”
Foster has eosinophilic esophagitis, a condition of the esophagus that makes it nearly impossible for him to eat any food. His body simply rejects it. Unrelated to the first ailment, he also has a compromised immune system. He is fed through a tube and receives shots to boost his immune system.
Until recently, he could eat turkey and grapes, but now even that is impossible, said his mother, Glendia Terrell.
But that was all forgotten, at least for a little while, when he and his family traveled as part of the Make-A-Wish program to the New Jersey Meadowlands for five days to see WrestleMania and meet some of his heroes. The event is the Super Bowl of professional wrestling competitions – the titles often are contested at these events, which unlike WWE TV shows “Raw” and “Smackdown,” are only televised via pay-per-view.
He went with Terrell, his step-father Chris and two step-sisters, Bobbie and Christin.
“It was something the whole family could enjoy,” said Terrell. “We could take a family vacation and forget about being sick for a while.”
The whole family is into wrestling, except Bobbie and Christin.
Foster wasn’t diagnosed until he was 7, and several doctors thought it was a case of munchausen by proxy, where Terrell may have been trying to get attention by making her child sick deliberately. After the family switched doctors, however, and had tests done at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite and at Emory, they got a correct diagnosis.
No one’s sure how Foster got the rare condition, but it is believed to be hereditary, Terrell said.
“My dad died in 2001, and he was never diagnosed, but he had every symptom,” she said.
A former friend of the family recommended they apply for the Make-A-Wish program. They were on a waiting list for almost two years before being chosen.
“As part of the application, they asked what their wish was, what they wanted to do, where they wanted to go and who they wanted to be like,” Terrell said. “Every one of his answers had to do with wrestling.”