Jacob Roberts wearing a superhero shirt his mom made for him. The Labrador City boy has received support from across the Big Land and the island. CONTRIBUTED
Jacob Roberts with his parents, Dana and Adam Roberts. CONTRIBUTED
Dana and Adam Roberts of Labrador City are overwhelmed with the support they’ve been getting since their son was diagnosed with a brain tumour last year.
“Thank-you just doesn’t seem enough. We are speechless,” Dana said during a phone interview Oct. 3.
Jacob, who turned four on Aug. 28, underwent his first brain surgery in December 2018.
It all started, Dana said, when Jacob started throwing up clear fluid.
“He was treated for reflux for a couple of weeks but it progressively got worse.”
Five weeks later, when diagnostic tests confirmed a brain tumour, Jacob was airlifted from the hospital in Labrador City to the Janeway children’s hospital in St. John’s, where he underwent his first brain surgery.
A check-up in August revealed the non-cancerous tumour had started to grow back, which resulted in another surgery in early September.
Since that time, the family has spent much of their time in St. John’s to be near the hospital.
In addition to the two surgeries to remove the tumours, Jacob has also undergone several other operations to repair and replace the shunt that drains fluid from his brain.
Dana works at Source Atlantic in Wabush, while Adam is employed by Iron Ore Company of Canada. Both employers have been very supportive, they say, and have held fundraisers for them.
Adam’s friends at JC’s Carpentry have also fundraised on their behalf.
“That’s the way people in Lab City are...We are pretty lucky to be living in this town,” Adam said during a phone interview on Oct. 7.
From bake sales to barbecues, the fundraisers have reached people in the Big Land, throughout the province — particularly in Triton, where Adam’s parents live — and beyond.
“Communities and churches...people everywhere, have been so supportive,” Adam said.
Staff at Janeway, in all departments they have dealt with, have also been there for the family, Adam said.
“We always gave to the Janeway wherever there were fundraisers. I used to say, 'it’s not always going to be buddy next door that needs the help.' And my family has proved that,” he added.
The family is particularly grateful to Jacob’s neurosurgeon, Dr. Greg Jenkins, who they know they can contact if Jacob shows signs of illness once back in Labrador City.
“It gives you peace of mind to know that, if a situation arises, you can call him,” Adam said.
When your child’s medical condition changes quickly, having people respond kindly to your changing needs means a great deal, Adam said, giving accolades to the helpful staff at PAL Airlines.
“And we have an apartment at Homeport (Apartment Hotel in St. John’s)...they have been really good whenever we’ve had to make changes,” he said.
“And just to get out with a couple of friends to have adult conversation — that’s huge when you are at the hospital day-after-day, just to get out and reset for an hour or so,” he added.
Long road ahead
While the family was optimistic they would get home in early October, Jacob needed another shunt revision surgery on Oct. 5.
He will also need diagnostic tests throughout his life to detect any signs of a tumour reoccurring.
After his recovery, Jacob has a wish to look forward to, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation: A visit to Legoland in Florida.
While Jacob is the primary focus on their lives, the Roberts’ are also intent on helping others recognize the signs and symptoms of brain tumours in children. Dana has a poster with those signs posted on her Facebook page.
“Instead of asking, 'why my child', I ask myself how can I help someone else through this. If we hadn’t caught Jacob’s (tumour) within the week that we did, he may not be here,” she said.
Brain tumour signs and symptoms in children
• Morning nausea and vomiting
• Frequent headaches
• Dizziness, unsteadiness and head tilt
• Visual disturbance such as double or blurred vision
• Weakness or paralysis
• Personality changes
• Hearing impairment
Other symptoms to look for include excessive drinking and urinating and early puberty. In infants, look for loss of developmental milestones and increasing head circumference.
Recognizing the most common signs and symptoms associated with brain tumours can help in early diagnosis and treatment.
If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, please consult your doctor.
Source: Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada