A YOUNG man has shared his experiences of fighting his way back to health from cancer – offering a message of hope for all cancer patients this Christmas.

Jake Adams, 20, of Houghton-le-Spring, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in September 2019, after experiencing troubling symptoms including headaches, pain, loss of mobility and confusion. 

Now campaigning for Teenage Cancer Trust, he said: “I had been experiencing headaches for a while then one day I was at work and I’d been asked to go and help serve customers.

The Northern Echo: Jake with his mum BeverleyJake with his mum Beverley

“I went to move, and my legs were moving in slow motion. I couldn’t make them go any quicker and it was like my body was shutting down.

“Later in my shift a colleague reminded me to do something which I thought I’d already done but hadn’t. They thought I seemed a bit delirious, so they contacted my parents, and we went to A&E in Sunderland.”

A CT scan showed a mass on Jake’s brain, and he was taken to the RVI in Newcastle for an MRI scan, which revealed the tumour.  

Jake said: “The news was enough to stop us all in our tracks. I had surgery a few days later and they hoped they’d got it all, but after an MRI I was told I would need another operation in a couple of days.

“After the second operation I was told the tumour was malignant. Then due to some complications, I ended up having five surgeries over around seven weeks. 

“I thought that it was all over, but then I was told that I’d need 30 days of radiotherapy at the end of November. It was gutting, especially as that would be across Christmas.” 

Thankfully, help was at hand from charity Teenage Cancer Trust to help him through the incredibly difficult times. 

The Northern Echo: Jake with his sister TeaganJake with his sister Teagan

Jake, who was 19 when he was diagnosed, said: “I was able to stay on the Teenage Cancer Trust unit at the Freeman which is a special ward designed for young people with cancer.  I had my own private room and lots of support.”

On the unit, Jake was helped by a Teenage Cancer Trust specialist nurse called Nicola, and the charity’s Youth Support Coordinator Gemma. They gave him expert advice and support every step of the way, especially when going through treatment during the coronavirus pandemic threw up additional challenges.

He said: “I started my chemotherapy in March, and I was only part way through the first cycle when the coronavirus pandemic started to get bad. My mum had been with me for my first few sessions of chemotherapy, but after that she wasn’t allowed to be there with me. Gemma was able to accompany me instead, and it really helped.  Nicola was amazing too.

“She’s seen me at my worst. She got to know me really well and she took the time to learn what was important to me and remember it; not all nurses have time to do that.”

Coronavirus has had a severe impact on Teenage Cancer Trust’s income, slashing it by a third – a shortfall of around £6m a year. 

He said: “This Christmas enjoy what you can - expect the worst but hope for the best.

“And accept any support you can, don’t be too shy to accept it.”

Due to the pandemic, support from its specialist nurses and youth workers is needed more than ever.

Kate Collins, chief executive at Teenage Cancer Trust, said: “Sadly, young people with cancer have been hit harder than most by the coronavirus pandemic.  

“Many have gone months without seeing their friends and have worries that their treatment could be disrupted. Others fear catching coronavirus while their immune system is lowered and have had to face hospital visits and stays without loved ones due to infection control measures.

“Donations to trust mean that we can provide young people with  specialist units, expert nurses to support them through treatment, dedicated youth workers to help them cope with anxiety and isolation.

Jake has finished treatment and is focused on further regaining his fitness and mobility. Visit www.teenagecancertrust.org/xmas to donate.