Friends throw birthday surprise for Va. girl battling stage 4 cancer

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WRIC – HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) – A Hanover girl battling stage 4 cancer got a special birthday gift Sunday night – a surprise party to welcome her home. She's been receiving treatment at John Hopkins Children's Center.

"Happy, I'm very happy," said Iris Jacobs, who recently turned 14-years-old.

Iris Jacobs is no ordinary birthday girl.

"Truly my hero. She's one of the bravest people I know," said her mother Debra Jacobs.

Iris Jacobs is a fighter.

"She's very independent and courageous and strong," said a friend.

"To have to hear and process the kinds of things she's had to encounter at her age, and still have a smile on her face every day it's…it's breathtaking," said Jeremy Tozier, her half-brother.

Two years ago, Iris was diagnosed at stage 4 of an extremely rare type of cancer. She's has to go through 54 weeks of chemotherapy, radiation and then a stem cell transplant.

"She ended up having double fungal pneumonia, and then she went on a ventilator and then she went on life support. We're only home because I begged to bring her home," explained her mother.

Iris' former teacher and family friend Juli Smith planned the best birthday party ever at the Rutland Clubhouse. She raised $1,500 to make it possible.

"To show Iris how many people are cheering for her and supporting her and loving her. The community has really come together. People are here decorating, people are picking up pizzas, flowers were donated. It's just really been really neat to see the community come together to celebrate Iris' birthday," said Smith.

"Love it, it's awesome. Just getting to be with friends and family. I's just nice being home," said Iris.

Her parents say they've found strength in their daughter.

"I have to keep her smiling. I have to be brave for her because she's brave," said Debra Jacobs.

Iris' cancer recently returned, but her hope hasn't dwindled.

"She has the strongest spirit. No matter what–she keeps fighting," said her close friend Marly Rokenbrod.

"Every day is precious," said her mother.

Iris will have to keep getting blood transfusions at a few times a week at UVA.