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How Did I Learn I Had Cancer At 17 Years Old?

I’m sitting here in my couch at 30 years old reflecting back on the events of my life that led me to start Jollycations. I pondered how to start this series for a few minutes before deciding on the simple “origin story” of how we found out I had cancer and the actually kind of crazy way we found out. The stories I plan on telling are stories that a lot of my closest friends know but that I don’t really just talk about often.

Setting the scene, I was a junior in high school. Quite frankly struggled to get passing grades because I slept through most classes. I had a few too many late night playing Madden and Call of Duty. Like most teens, I do not regret never taking high school serious though. I went into that summer excited that my final year of high school was coming to an end.

Walking out of school on the final day of junior year I would not have been able to tell you that I wouldn’t have one of the most unordinary senior years possible. I’ll never say that I was the only person to ever experience something like this but I will tell anyone reading this that this is my experience. It may differ from someone else. Towards the end of July I went on a jet ski-trip that would ultimately change my life forever.

Growing up my mother and sister were highly involved in church. Due to that I was always forced into going as well. Looking back on it, it seemed like the entire church figured that I would eventually come around to the whole religion thing. I used to be the wear headphones and listen to music while the sermon was going on kid. In all of this, I joined the youth group, and all of my best friends joined the youth group.

We had an excuse to hangout every Wednesday night and do fun things together. Our youth group leaders were a married couple who loved to do random games and activities. They were extremely creative and we all had a great time. The female youth group leaders mother took a couple of us up to a lake up in northern New Hampshire to go jet-skiing. I still remember that trip, not because of how it ended, but because it was my first time ever on a jet-ski. The youth group leader gave me control and I went so fast it kicked him off the back.

As we were packing up for the day, the same women who owned the jet-ski asked me “hey Jake, What’s under your arm?”. This lady was either a nurse or a retired nurse and somehow knew something was wrong right away. My response to her was “I think I popped something out of place, it doesn’t hurt so I’ve just been ignoring it.

By the time I got home, she had already called my mother. We had an appointment with my PCP set for two days later. The PCP story I will tell another day, but he directed us to Boston to go to Mass General Hospital to do further testing.

From that day, the things I remember doing were a CT Scan, MRI, blood testing, and a biopsy. What was growing under my arm, basically in my armpit turned out to be Synovial Sarcoma. A rare form of muscle cancer.

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