Danielle has since set up a company in his memory with profits from Pearl Meets Crystal donated to our Australian charity counterparts, Cure Brain Cancer.
Here, she tells us her story as the anniversary of Jake’s diagnosis during the festive season approaches once again. “Christmas is meant to be such a wonderful time of year – not a time when you find out a loved one has cancer.
My boyfriend at the time, Jake, and I had been on a date night to an outdoor cinema near our hometown of Perth. Later that night, after we drifted off to sleep, I was anxiously woken up by Jake hitting me in the back. He was having a seizure.
An ambulance was called, and he was taken to hospital. After many doctors, nurses, scans; it was the following day when those life changing words were said “it’s a brain tumour.”
At just 24 years old, Jake was diagnosed with brain cancer.
We had been together for just over a year and never once was there any indication that anything serious was ever wrong. The surgeon explained to us how there was tumour the size of a fist pushing his whole brain to one side and that it needed to be removed immediately.
On Christmas Eve, he was taken into surgery to remove as much of the tumour as they could. The surgery went well and, in no time at all, Jake was back on his feet.
He returned to university to study law and we picked up our little puppy Elzee, which we initially had to delay because of his diagnosis.
Unless you were told, you could never tell Jake was sick. He never lost his big smile and continued to put everyone else first. I cannot remember a time when he let his prognosis stop him from living his life.
Every time there was a setback with his health, he took it in his stride. His strength, courage and determination had me thinking he was going to beat the devastating brain cancer odds.
Jake had two operations as well as numerous chemotherapy treatments, radiation sessions and oncology appointments. The tumour would shrink right down and then, months later, it would begin to grow back again. Each time, it was more aggressive than the last. In its final form, it returned as a Glioblastoma Multiforme, which is the most aggressive and dangerous type of brain tumour there is.
We had heard many life expectancy prognoses by this point, but we definitely weren’t expecting to hear he had around 6-12 months left. He tried absolutely everything the doctors threw at him, but at the end of it all, there was nothing more that they could do.
As someone who needs to be prepared, I searched the internet high and low to prepare myself as much as I could for Jake’s pending death. However, I could never find the answers I was after. Nothing could have prepared me for what was going to happen.
Within a matter of weeks, he began to get weaker and weaker. He was forced to defer his place at university and simple activities, such as talking the dog for a short walk, were too much for him.
Soon after, Jake lost his ability to move the left-hand side of his body so he needed a walking frame, then a wheelchair and later a hospital bed was put in his bedroom. This is where he stayed for the remainder of his life and where he faced being almost completely paralyzed from the neck down.
Soon, Jake slipped into a coma and he never woke up again. As I sat by his bedside watching him slip away, I knew that I had to help fight this disease. In fact, I promised him that I would. In the early hours on Saturday, October 22, 2016, Jake peacefully passed away – he was 27 years old.
I couldn’t influence the outcome of Jake’s prognosis, but I could control what I did afterwards. I chose to channel my emotional experience into a driving force to raise money for vital brain cancer research and awareness. This was how I was going to help.
When I was grieving, jewellery making helped to keep my mind distracted. One day, I created this bracelet that I loved. Staring at it attentively, it suddenly crossed my mind what it was that I needed to do.
I set up an Etsy store, an Instagram page and started an online shop – Pearl Meets Crystal, which features handmade Swarovski jewellery. The profits from bracelet go directly to help fund vital brain cancer research and support the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation.
I have been amazed with the support and interest that I have received. I can proudly say I have raised over $10,000 (£5,500) with my jewellery.
I saw firsthand how underfunded and unresearched brain cancer really is. Its survival rates are extremely low and have hardly shifted in 30 years.
Find out more about Danielle’s jewellery range or shop online here: