What started out as a series of bad headaches for seven year old Jacob Bell, turned out to be the warning sign for a far more serious diagnosis.
As the severity of Jacobs headache increased and his coordination became affected one day, his Mum Mel took him to the Emergency Department. While there Jacob had an MRI which showed he had a 4cm posterior fossa tumour in his right cerebellum which was pressing hard against his brain stem.
Life can change in an instant
From there things moved quickly for the family as Jacob was transferred to Starship by ambulance. “The team at Starship were amazing. There was no decisions to make, so it was a huge relief. The operation had to happen and quickly or Jacob would not survive”, says Mel.
Following the six hour operation, Jacob spent five days in a high dependency ward. Here he needed to lie flat to maintain an even pressure in his brain.
Mel says “though undoubtedly a heart wrenching experience, hospital was the easy part. Just as suddenly as we had arrived, we were released home. As a result anxiety quickly took hold. We had been dealing with sheer survival and I hadn’t let the cancer park sink in yet. There were many decisions to make and after focusing on Jacob, his siblings wanted life to return back to normal.”
Starting back at school was hard for Jacob. He tired easily, he couldn’t do the work and he felt like he didn’t have any friends. The difficulties he faces aren’t obvious, he has an intention tremor in his right arm, which may or may not come right. Jacob has had to learn to write with his left hand. He is very proud of his problem solving skills to deal with the challenge of his shaky right arm. He “teaches it what to do” by guiding it around in the air with his left arm. “I’m extremely proud of him” says Mel, “but it’s bittersweet in these moments watching your child struggle with simple tasks that most of us take for granted”.
I never thought my seven year old child would teach me so much about courage, perseverance, bravery and resilience.
A place to just be us
Mel can vividly remember the first day they visited True Colours. “I was sitting in the car, willing myself to go in, I felt like I didn’t deserve the service. My child had survived and Jacob had coped so well considering what he had been through. But we went in and I’m so glad we did. True Colours provides me a safe place where I can talk openly, share the load and have someone with balanced eyes who can see if I miss anything.”
Mel describes True Colours as a place to “just be us”, with no expectations of who or how we should be. “It’s like looking in a mirror, it’s a place where we get asked what we think. The pace of life outside is irrelevant and the feeling of walking through the doors is very special.”
At True Colours Jacob found a friend in Counsellor Kyra Lindsey. He needed someone who could understand his feelings, someone who liked him, someone who he could just be himself with. Jacob enjoys playing with the Lego, playing the drums and having a chance to talk about what he is feeling.
He tells his Mum, it feels like everyone there cares about me, EVERYONE!
His siblings Cameron and Katie have also had some support from the True Colours team as they process what has happened to their brother.
Jacob will continue to have MRI’s for the next ten years before he is considered clear.