Jake Adams, 21, from Tyne and Wear was diagnosed with a high-grade Medulloblastoma in September 2019 just as he was about to return to university for the second year of his Sports Journalism degree.
Jake was having excruciating headaches, persistent violent vomiting and weakness in his legs which made it impossible to function properly. He was at work at Sainsbury’s during the university holidays when he was suddenly unable to move and he was becoming increasingly confused. He went to A&E at Sunderland Hospital where a CT scan, and a further MRI scan at Newcastle Hospital, found the brain tumour.
Jake then needed five operations over the next few weeks including removal of the tumour, treating an infection, inserting a shunt and also to readjust it. During these operations, the tumour was confirmed to be high-grade so Jake would need further treatment. He had 30 sessions of radiotherapy on his brain and spine and three cycles of chemotherapy. A scan in September last year found that Jake was tumour-free and he needed no more treatment.
“Prior to my diagnosis, I had no idea about brain tumours aside from an assumption that it was a death sentence which is far from the truth. The symptoms were making me live in a painful haze so my diagnosis didn’t really sink in until the day of my first surgery when I was terrified and awfully anxious.”
Jake added: “The side-effects of the treatment were tearing me apart both physically and mentally. I was totally wiped out – so incredibly tired but then my mobility issues made it even more challenging to get around. Mentally, my treatment pushed me a lot but I just tried my best to remain positive throughout. In fact, it got to a point where I was worse during my treatment than I had been before I was diagnosed. It was made much worse when the Covid pandemic hit as I had to go for the treatment alone too.
“Because of all this, my oncologist agreed that, if my scan was good after my third round of chemotherapy, we wouldn’t continue. Fortunately that scan showed that I was tumour-free and I nearly exploded with tears of happiness and relief.”
Jake is now looking forward to putting his diagnosis behind him and get his life back on track, alongside regular scans to monitor his condition for any changes.
Jake had been playing for a local Rugby team prior to his diagnosis and, although he cannot return to playing, he is watching as many games as he can with the friends who have helped him through this difficult time for him.
Jake also decided not to return to university after having to take the second year off following his diagnosis. He has now returned to his part-time job at Sainsbury’s through phased hours and he credits the company for their care and dedication to supporting his return to work.
Jake said: “I decided to drop out of university because I lost all motivation and I was physically not ready to go back. I have recently celebrated the graduation of some of my course friends though having kept in touch with them over the years which is great though.
“Weirdly, one of the first things I realised after my first surgery was that I was unlikely to be able to play Rugby again – getting the shunt put in really ruled out the chances of this happening. It was my number one hobby so now, I just try to watch as many games as I can so I can enjoy it that way instead.”
It was following his diagnosis that Jake first heard about The Brain Tumour Charity on social media which he says helps him to keep a sense of perspective.
He added: “The Brain Tumour Charity have really helped me. The variety of the posts which they share on social media constantly strive to raise awareness of brain tumours as well as offer advice on how to handle a diagnosis. They also highlight people in the public eye who have been diagnosed or even passed away because of a brain tumour and, for me, that has helped me to understand the real severity of brain tumours and how anyone can be affected by the disease.”
Jake does continue to manage side-effects of his condition including ongoing issues with balance, double vision and being generally weaker than he used to be. But he says that his experiences have given him a fresh appreciation for the little things in life too.
Jake said: “I miss a sense of living a normal life and a regular routine as that’s what I have wanted back most of all. I think the Covid pandemic means a lot of people have experienced that feeling too. The tumour is something which is on my mind all of the time too. I can’t forget what I have been through and it can, on occasions, become quite overbearing.
“But I know now how quickly things can change so I value my family and friends that little bit more than I may have done otherwise because their support was incredible.
“I would advise anyone who has been affected by a diagnosis to feel positive and be patient with everything that is happening to them. I was very frustrated going through my treatment and recovery as things weren’t getting better very fast. But it is important to remember that everyone is different so try not to compare yourself to others and just take everything at your own pace both physically and emotionally.”