Jade's story

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Jade, diagnosed at 27 with Acinic Cell Carcinoma when she was pregnant, shares her story.

My name is Jade Palmer. I'm currently twenty-eight. I was diagnosed with salivary gland cancer in December 2019. I had acinic cell carcinoma in my parotid gland and I had my surgery at the end of December 2019. 

I feel as though whenever I speak to anyone about my cancer journey or the type of cancer I've had, I've always got the reply of, ‘wow, you're really young and it's a very rare cancer’, which I've completely understood after the research I've done. 

So I just feel like sharing my story for anyone else in the potential same kind of age bracket as me, so they can see that there’s someone who's actually had it too, and has also shared that story, so maybe they can kind of relate. 

As I said, because it's such a rare cancer, I feel as though so many people might feel really alone and being able to connect with everyone who's got it or had it, or had an experience with it, it's really helped kind of feel somewhat normal in a way that it's just not me by myself in this world going through it.

Do you have one piece of advice for someone with a new diagnosis?

Just to stay strong.  It's really, really difficult because I felt that I was always trying to stay strong for everyone else. But just stay strong for yourself, because, you know, in that situation, I think there's so many emotions and there are so many people that are worried about you and kind of you know, you just want to make sure that they're OK. 

Well, that's what I felt like. I just felt like I wanted to make sure my mum was OK and my children were OK, but I just didn't feel like I was actually looking after me and my mental health as well as, like, my physical health. 

So definitely, you know, stay strong for yourself and know that you're in the right hands and you know, you'll be OK if you just stay, you know, through the path and just don't mentally go downhill, because that just doesn't help the situation because, you know, the doctors, nurses and everyone else trying to work really are trying to help get you through it.

What has helped you stay mentally strong throughout the process?

I just carried on. I just carried on with everything I was doing. At the time I was in university, I was still getting on with my studies. 

I just had a baby. I was still being a full-time mum as well as studying. I just didn't stop. 

I felt as though if I stopped, I would be overthinking everything. So being able to carry on and just think, right, OK, until I can get to my surgery date, I think that was my hardest part, is knowing I had it and then getting to the date of right ‘I need to have this removed now’. 

I think those few weeks would have been a lot worse mentally if I didn't just have the mentality of ‘right I've just got to keep going now and get to that date’.  

And when I get to that date, you know the next chapter is the recovery now and seeing how it all went.

So, yeah, definitely. Just keep going. 

It's really hard. I found it really, really hard to keep going, but I just thought if I just stop, I'm just going to really mentally go down. And I didn’t want to get myself into a dark place because it wouldn't have been OK for me.

I was pregnant with my second child and I was suffering with horrendous migraines constantly to the point that I actually fainted on my bump one day. I was seven months pregnant, and I ended up in A and E. 

And it was only the off chance that a doctor in the hospital said, ‘we really need to get her an MRI’, which apparently I found out was very, very rare thing to do just because of the complications that could potentially happen whilst you're pregnant. 

And through that, they found the lump, but they didn't actually tell me until I had my son. I had the letter through the post five days after my son was born to explain that they actually found a mass after telling me that there wasn't anything to worry about. 

But they did sit after that, explained it was because they wouldn't have done anything until he was born and it wouldn't have been safe for him if I had the surgery or any sort of treatment or anything. 

So I understand but at that time, I just thought to myself, why didn't you tell me? I should have known. 

But then thinking back it's probably the best because I did carry on with my pregnancy very well and there was no big worry of ‘right this is going on’. I was able to kind of have that in my mind after I’d had him.

Where was your lump?

I didn't actually know. I didn't feel a lump. I didn't have any symptoms. 

It was in the parotid gland and they told me it was luckily very early stage, but they wouldn't have noticed until a much later stage, most probably. 

Which is quite a scary feeling, really, because I think if they didn't see it then, I don't know what would have happened in the future, which is something I try not to over think about, but it does cross my mind at times.

Do they think the headache was related to the cancer?

No, they actually confirmed it wasn't. It was actually just pregnancy-related migraines, which was really lucky. 

And the surgeon I have actually his words were ‘someone's definitely looking down on you’ because it was a very lucky chance to find it when they weren't actually looking for anything to do with cancer at that time.

Are you still having regular scans?

No, I still have my six monthly MRI’s and I still see the consultant every three months. So last week I saw my consultant, who is currently very pleased with my recovery and my movement in my face is back to normal and, you know, my scars healed really well. 

So they're really happy so far. So I think I'm due an MRI now and around June because I had my last in December, but so far so good. So it's really positive.

You have a rare cancer – did you find it hard to find reliable information?

Yes, I did. I found it really difficult. And the first place I checked after trying to do all the research in the world on Google and the normal search engines, I went on Facebook and actually found your page. 

And that's where I probably found out more information than I ever had after my surgery. And then that's when I joined on to the meeting with you all about acinic cell carcinomas and actually found out through a doctor a lot more than I ever found out online. 

And I'm quite good at researching, I find, because it's kind of like something you can kind of just do casually on your phone. But it was really good insight to find out a lot more. 

And, you know, the further research that they actually need to do for the acinic cell carcinoma and all the unanswered questions with it. 

So, yeah, I find that Salivary Gland Cancer UK is probably the best route I could have gone and looked and it was only off chance I just randomly decided to search you on Facebook.

And it came up and I was just so baffled because I thought, “oh, it's not just me, that there is an actual charity for it”. So it did really feel like I opened up another door to a whole new world of unanswered questions.

Is there enough research being done for your type of cancer?

I definitely think there is always room for more research. And I understand because it's a rare cancer and it's not as common that there are so many cancers that have much more priority just due to obviously the diagnosis with other people and the numbers a lot higher. 

So in that aspect, I understand that there isn't enough research so far. But then in the perspective of a person that’s had it and is going through the remission of it, then obviously I would love for it to be, you know, there would be much more research if I could change it and have more answers for people instead of people trying to find their own answers to try and help themselves or potentially family members are going through it, then yes, definitely. I would love for it to have much more research for it.

And would you be willing to donate a tissue to the biobank to further research?

Oh, definitely. One hundred percent. I would if I had the chance, I would definitely be one of the first people, if I could to donate some tissue just to help. 

Because if it means I can help someone else and find more research out, then I will do whatever I can to because I would never want to see anyone go through this with the unanswered questions of what there can be to help.

Any final words or advice you would like to share?

I just feel like, you know, people know their body, so if they feel like there's anything wrong, please go and get checked out.

Especially with what's going on with the pandemic and COVID. I think people are pushing their appointments that they might make, just due to obviously the severity of what's going on around us right now. 

But I just feel like regardless of that happening, you still need to put your own health first and make sure that if there is anything in doubt a lump, a bump, numbness anywhere, just make sure you get it checked because it's better to be safe and just make sure that you're OK. 

I think that's probably my biggest outcome from this. I find that since opening up about my story last year and going to the newspapers locally about it, there has been a few people that have had lumps and bumps checked. 

And they've come to me and said, if it wasn't for your article, I wouldn't have had this done, because they realised they're a similar age to me, you know, I think they realised that cancer isn't just for the older generation. 

It can happen to anyone at any time and sometimes without any cause as to why. So you always just get it checked. And that's why I just can't stress it enough. Just make sure that you're putting your health first.

Was it hard to share your story?

Yeah, at first I did. But I did go through Macmillan counselling, which was absolutely fantastic. 

And I was working with them for a good few months for me to just be able to speak about it without getting teary or upset or just anything because of the situation of just having a baby and finding out. 

I think my emotions were everywhere. So I just feel as though speaking to someone professionally really helped me be able to actually move forward and just be able to speak about my story in a positive and confident way.

And if there is ever a time that, you know, that I do relapse or anything like that, I will still be open about it because I just want everyone to just know that there are people are able to speak about their story just to try and help others, because the only reason I speak about it is to try and make people aware that, one, this is a serious cancer like every other cancer is very serious and two, it can happen to anyone.