In Hope Stories
Just 1% of the national research spend has been allocated to this devastating disease
Jake Tindale was a happy and healthy 17 year old but in December 2020 he unexpectedly collapsed at his mum’s house in Sheffield. He was taken to hospital and had an MRI scan which revealed he had an astrocytoma brain tumour. On 23 December, Jake underwent an operation where surgeons managed to remove the whole tumour. Jake is now living life to the full and he recently started a music production course at his local sixth form college. Throughout 2022, Jake’s dad, Mark Tindale, 44, has taken on a number of running challenges to raise money for Brain Tumour Research, culminating in his completing the London Marathon in October.
Mark tells Jake’s story…
Tuesday 8 December 2020 is a day that I will never forget. It started off the same as any other normal day, but just one phone call turned our world upside down.
A lady at Sheffield Children’s Hospital said it was about my son Jake. When she asked if I could go somewhere quiet to talk, my heart stopped.
Only a few days previously, Jake had several tests and an MRI scan at the hospital after Jake's Mum, Katie, witnessed him black-out and collapse to the floor at home in Sheffield.
The lady said that Katie had asked her to phone me on her behalf, as she was unable to tell me the news. Her tone was worryingly sympathetic, and my mind started racing.
“’I am so sorry to tell you this, but your son Jake has a brain tumour.’ Those words and that moment will remain with me forever.”
As I sat alone in a quiet office room, I became inconsolable, unable to process those unbearable words. I was utterly petrified at the thought of what my 15-year-old boy was about to go through.
From that point things moved very quickly, and the very next day we were back in hospital to do another MRI scan. As COVID was at its peak, we also had to deal with the upsetting fact that only one parent was allowed to be with Jake for the scan. As we made our way to the hospital, a million thoughts were swirling through my mind.
“At this point, Jake was not aware of the diagnosis. His mum and I agreed it was too soon to break the news to him.”
We decided the best thing to do was to wait until everything was made clear and the doctors were able to give us a clear plan of action.
As I sat with Jake in the waiting room, I pretended everything was fine. Trying to remain my usual jovial self to protect Jake from the situation was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.
After the scan, I drove Jake back to his mum’s house in Sheffield. I gave him the same big hug that I always do; resisting the urge to squeeze him even tighter was unbelievably tough, but I didn’t want him to sense that anything was wrong.
Letting go of him and saying goodbye was the last thing I wanted to do but I stopped myself from crying until I reached my car and set off back to Ramsbottom in Bury.
“Tears were streaming down my face all the way home, as all the angst and sadness that I had managed to barricade inside all afternoon, came flooding out.”
With the fantastic support of Jake’s stepdad Chris, Jake’s mum found the strength to tell him once everything had been confirmed. Jake called me immediately:
“Dad, can you believe it, I have a brain tumour, how rubbish is that?!” I couldn’t believe it, there wasn’t an ounce of fear in his voice. The positiveness and strength he demonstrated was unreal.
Two weeks before Christmas, Jake, his Mum and I were called to see the consultant neurosurgeon. This was where we were shown the images of the tumour and they discussed with us how they were going to remove it. They told Jake all the risks involved in the surgery - which devastatingly included a risk to his life. They needed to act fast and they informed us that there was an opportunity to carry out the extensive, seven-hour operation on 23 December. However, they explained that they thought the best date would be the first week of January so that Jake could enjoy Christmas first. It was at that point Jake, bravely interrupted the consultant and said, “No, I want the operation on the 23rd. Christmas can wait! Let’s get this out!”
“Silence descended on the room, as the consultant was astonished by the sheer determination and unbelievable courage of this teenage boy - a boy we are so lucky and proud to call our son.”
The consultant smiled as he shook his head in disbelief, “Right then Jake, let’s do this!” I sat by my son’s side in complete awe and admiration. The strength Jake was showing was just staggering and truly inspirational.
The 23rd December 2020 will go down as the longest day in my life. Only his mum was allowed at the hospital due to the pandemic. I had to remain at home in Manchester, supported by my wife and Jake's step-mum Liz.
Jake phoned me at seven in the morning on his way to the hospital. His operation was at nine. Once again, he was so positive and cracking jokes. Naturally, like every parent would be, I was terrified, but I was not going to let Jake hear or know that!
Jake's operation lasted just under seven hours, but it felt like seven years. As the hours went on, we sat desperately willing the phone to ring with news that all had gone well, and that Jake was out of theatre. We finally got the phone call at four o’clock, and to my relief they informed me that he was recovering in the high dependency unit and was coming around and responding well. Two hours later, he was sat up and talking to me on face-time, albeit high on medication, but still managing to smile.
Jake's mum spent the first night of his recovery by his hospital bedside. We swapped on Christmas Eve, and I stayed by his side and stayed there until Christmas Day morning. His mum joined us later that morning - an exception to the COVID rule because it was Christmas Day - and he managed to open a few presents, whilst Santa Claus made his way around the ward visiting all the other young poorly children.
The doctors were amazed by his recovery and by some miracle they allowed him home to be in his own bed on Christmas Day. Prior to surgery, they said Jake would be in hospital for at least five days. The neurosurgeon said he was extremely confident that he managed to remove all of the tumour and stated the operation was a complete success! The oncology report revealed that the brain tumour was an astrocytoma.
Twelve weeks after the operation came the all-important MRI scan to see if everything had heeled as we had all hoped, and to check that nothing had grown back.
To say we were relieved that he’d been given the all clear was an understatement. He could now continue with his life and just needs to undergo scans every 12 months to monitor.
“It was like Jake had been re-born again. It made me realise that life can change so quickly, so let’s go and have a cracking time to make the most of this second chance.”
Jake has been on an incredible journey, and his attitude has been amazing and has helped to get him through. He has recently started a music production course at Eckington sixth form college in Sheffield. During the summer, he went to his first music festival with his friends, and I’ve got a video of him crowdsurfing! He’s living his life now, which is great. He deserves it.
This year, I have taken on three running challenges to play a small part in showing my support to my inspirational son Jake, and to all those suffering with this terrible disease, to raise much needed funds for Brain Tumour Research UK. I did the Blackpool Half Marathon in April and the Accrington Ron Hill 10k in September. My final run was by far the biggest, the London Marathon on 2 October.
I’ve never felt pain like it, plain and simple. I’ll do half marathons but I’ll never do a full one again! The atmosphere was incredible and for parts of it the crowd carried me. Up to the eighteenth mile I was enjoying it but then my hamstring went and a mate caught me up and got me through it. It went again at the last corner, when I was around 400 yards from the finish, but Jake and my family were at the finish line, so just thinking about Jake got me through it.
I just want to give something back in the hope of finding a cure so that other families don’t have to go through what our family has gone through.
Brain tumours are indiscriminate; they can affect anyone at any age. What’s more, they kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer... yet historically just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.
Brain Tumour Research is determined to change this.
If you have been inspired by Jake’s story, you may like to make a donation via www.braintumourresearch.org/donation/donate-now or leave a gift in your will via www.braintumourresearch.org/legacy
Together we will find a cure.