Gaining Perspective as a Cancer Survivor
- Jak Metcalfe, 27, is a cancer survivor. But he credits his survival to the aftermath of a life-changing car crash that not only affected him but also his wife and in-laws.
- Because a post-accident operation revealed his cancer at an early stage, Jak feels “lucky” to have survived the disease and get married to his wife and have an eight-month-old daughter.
- Cancer will change your life, but we’ve seen survivors thrive time and time again. Ovarian cancer survivor Marecya Burton, for example, found her a new career she was passionate about after beating the disease. And breast cancer survivor Fernanda Savino told SurvivorNet that cancer brought her a new perspective on life.
Jak Metcalfe was with his now wife, Charlotte, and in-laws when the life-changing accident occurred. On the drive home from Charlotte’s graduation in November 2018, a huge truck rammed into the car that carried the four of them.Read More
The injuries that ensued as a result were traumatic to say the least.
“Charlotte broke her back in four places, had two collapsed lungs and eight broken ribs, lost her spleen, her liver was severed and [she had] a colostomy bag [fitted] because her bowel was severed as well,” he explained. “Her mum had a double stroke because her femur was snapped in half and a part of the bone went into her brain. Her Dad had a bleed on the brain and broke his back, too.”
As for Jak, he initially seemed to be slightly less harmed than Charlotte but quickly fell ill while in the hospital.
“My temperature went up to 41 degrees (Celsius), and within half an hour I was on the operating table,” he said. “They found out I was in septic shock and had a one-liter abscess in my stomach from where my bowel had given way. The abscess had burst – they drained it and managed to get rid of it, but my other organs were shutting down, because they had gangrene on them.
“They had to get a colostomy bag on me, too.”
After a surgery, doctors discovered that the then 23 year old had a rare form of cancer affecting his appendix. If he hadn’t had the operation, it’s unlikely that doctors would have even found his cancer at an early stage.
“I was told it’s undetectable until it’s [progressed to] stage four,” he said. “I’d probably have been dead in three years, they said, if I hadn’t had that accident – so, I was lucky.”
Lucky is an uncommon word to hear when it comes to cancer, but it truly reflects how Jak feels about the events that transpired after the horrible accident. And despite undergoing 11 operations between the two of them and still dealing with serious injury complications, Jak and Charlotte are happy parents of an eight-month-old daughter.
“We have come to accept that our lives will never be as they were,” Jak said. “But we remain hopeful that we can still make lovely memories as a family.”
Thriving as a Survivor
A cancer battle will change your life. But as we’ve seen in the case of Jak Metcalfe, it’s possible to find a whole lot of positivity during or after a cancer battle.
Take Marecya Burton, for example. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at just 20 years old. Burton was a college student-athlete looking forward to graduation at the time, but all that had to change when she was forced to move home to start treatment.
“That was definitely challenging for me,” Burton said in a previous interview with SurvivorNet. “I was looking forward to graduating.”
She also had planned on pursuing a law degree after graduation – another dream she had to give up.
“I really had to, in a sense, put my life on hold,” she said. “Sometimes I look at where I am, and I can’t help but wonder, would I be further had I not had my diagnosis?”
But instead of law school, Burton found a new passion: teaching. She became a high school teacher in Baltimore, Maryland, and she’s since made peace with her new direction in life.
“I wouldn’t change my career for the world,” she says. “It’s so fulfilling.”
Other survivors, like Fernanda Savino, have said that cancer changed their whole perspective on life. Savino, for example, adopted a new way of thinking that’s allowed her to appreciate both her body and her relationships more than ever.
“I’m a lawyer, and I used to be such a workaholic,” Fernanda previously told SurvivorNet. “I would work for long hours, and I would never make room for doctor appointments or anything like that.
“I started to take care of my health and be more respectful to my body, to me. I started to exercise more.”
Like so many others, Fernanda also said she relied on a lot of support from her loved ones – something she’ll always be grateful for.
“I had all the support … my family, my friends, even the ones that weren’t so close, they always were present,” she said. “I don’t know how I would have gotten through all of this without them.”