An ex-soldier who is battling a brain tumour plans to make the most of Christmas – by celebrating it with his first grandchild.
And Jason Evans, of Goldthorpe, is hoping for a new year boost in his fight against the illness after he has a scan in in the first week of January.
Granddaughter Freya Ivy was born in August, and Jason are the family are delighted to have giving the little girl a great first Christmas to focus on.
Jason was a fit and healthy 40-year-old when he suddenly suffered a seizure in May 2010 - and was then given the devastating news that he had a brain tumour.
He was taking part in a resettlement course after serving in the British Army for 22 years when he was taken ill in Surrey, miles from his Goldthorpe home.
Upon hearing the news, his wife of 17 years Verona Evans, aged 44, rushed to be by his side.
“When they first said he had a brain tumour my knees buckled, it was so shocking. It turned our world upside down. There been nothing wrong with him at all, I didn’t understand how this could have happened. He’d battled in war zones in Afghanistan and survived,” she said.
At first, the tumour was benign, but six-months-later the couple were told the tumour had become cancerous. The father-of-three had a grade three Oligodendglioma tumour.
He had an operation in Sheffield Hallamshire Hospital and 95 per cent of the tumour was removed. Six weeks of radiotherapy and nine-months of chemotherapy followed, then Jason was told the tumour was stable.
Sadly, 18 months later the tumour returned and Jason, now aged 45, had to undergo another operation and also another course of gruelling treatment, however, that was also successful.
Again, the family readjusted to life back at home, on Mulberry Close, and hoped that the cancer had been beaten for good. This was not to be the case.
At another routine scan, which Jason has every three months, he was told that the cancer had returned. Doctors do not want him to have more radiotherapy and chemotherapy because of concern that the exposure to further radiation may cause brain damage. Now, Jason’s only hope to prolong his life is Proton Beam Therapy, a less invasive type of radiotherapy, but Verona is determined to remain positive.
“Now he’s had it for so long we have just learnt to live with it, we just carry on. I always get nervous when he has to go for his scan results, but you just have to get on with it and remember that we have been lucky in so many ways. After all, he has had two successful operations,” she said.
“He does get tired very easily and sometimes he can get mixed up with his speech, but apart from that you wouldn’t know there was anything wrong with him.
“We are hoping he will get the Proton Beam Therapy. He has a scan on January 4 and depending on Jason’s condition at that time he could be sent for treatment within days.”
Proton Beam Therapy is not yet available in the UK, so Jason will have to travel to Oaklahoma in America for the treatment. It will cost £75,000, money which has been donated by cancer charity Kids ‘n’ Cancer.
The charity was set up in 2010 to help children get life saving treatment for their cancers and tumours. They also help adults, and will pay for therapy upfront. The families then fundraise to pay the money back.
Verona, along with friends, family, and complete strangers, has spent the last six months trying to raise the money. So far, the total raised stands at £31,000.
“It’s such a wonderful charity,” said the child-minder.
“There is no time frame to pay the money back in, it takes as along as it takes. We have been overwhelmed by the amount of people, many who we didn’t know, who have helped us. It’s been a whirlwind and we would like to thank everybody who has fundraised for us or donated money.”
For now, couple are now looking forward to spending quality time with their children this Christmas; 15-year-old Bailey, Bradley, 16, and 22-year-old Brooke, who has just become a mum herself.
Little Freya Ivy is the couple’s first grandchild and has brought joy to the whole family.
“It’s nice to have something so positive to focus on. Freya is wonderful, she’s just started to laugh. Jason has said he is so happy he is here to see his grand-daughter, he absolutely idolises her,” said Verona, who met her future husband at school in Bolton-Upon-Dearne at the age of 11.
“We are determined to put things to the back of our minds and make the most of Christmas because we just don’t know what’s going to happen in January.
“When Jason first got diagnosed they said his life expectancy was five to seven years, it’s been five years now and sometimes I do think there’s two years left. But, nobody really knows. If he is able to have this treatment it could give him another 10 years of good quality life.
“We do have our down days, but mostly I just thank my lucky stars that he is still here.”
To follow Jason’s story, search ‘Jason’s Journey’ on Facebook. To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/jasonsjourney.