Team Jak: The Drumoak Daunderers

Everyone at the Kiltwalk is very excited to have Team Jak back involved as Aberdeen Pit Stop Partners. Read the story below and find out why you should consider supporting Team Jak this year.

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On June 3, Gillian McPetrie and her team The Drumoak Daunderers are walking in support of Team Jak. This is a cause extremely close to their family’s heart after their life changing experience with the charity.

In January 2016, at four and a half years old,  Gillian’s son James began to complain of occasional headaches, was feeling low and didn’t always want to go to nursery, which he previously loved. He then began to complain of ‘fizzy eyes’ which he later described as double vision.

Gillian and James visited their GP and an optician, the optician noted that he had a nystagmus, an abnormal eye movement, and referred him to the hospital for investigation. It was during this eye examination at RACH, that the growth was spotted. A CT scan confirmed their worst fears, James had a brain tumour and required urgent surgery.
James was flown to Edinburgh and underwent his first surgery the following morning. Gillian said: “There really are no words to describe how we felt in those early weeks, our whole world had fallen apart and the news we were faced with each day was terrifying.”

After two successful surgical procedures, James was diagnosed with Medullablastoma, a malignant brain tumour. Following recovery from surgery, he would be treated with daily radiotherapy for six weeks, in in Edinburgh, followed by eight six-week cycles of chemotherapy nearer home, in Aberdeen.

Gillian: “We were filled with fear and dread of the awful side effects that James would have to endure and, even if everything was successful, his recovery would take some time. James was incredibly sensitive after surgery and every examination and procedure was so upsetting for him.”

“We first heard of Team Jak, when James and his brother Lewis received Jak’s Sacks, shortly after diagnosis. The sacks contained some goodies and essentials for the boys and information about Jak’s Den, which at the time was based only in Livingston, it sounded like a great resource.”

The family’s time in Edinburgh was relatively short and, for the most part and, by the time James would have been well enough to use Jak’s Den, they were returning to Aberdeen for the next and longest phase of his treatment.

James getting ready for his first day of school.
James getting ready for his first day of school.

Being much more modern than the hospital in Edinburgh, the rooms in Aberdeen were well-equipped and families can be largely self-sufficient when on the ward. James was lucky to be able to return to some normality, he began primary one and attended school for part of the day, most days, during chemotherapy.

Gillian: “Our family and friends were great and rallied round us, doing anything they could to help and we are so thankful for everything, but our lives had become so different to theirs, and sometimes it was spending time with them that really highlighted that, and made me feel lonely and isolated.”

Towards the end of James’s treatment the family discovered that Team Jak were considering branching out to Aberdeen.

James, his treatment complete, now helps his mum train for the Kiltwalk!
James, his treatment complete, now helps his mum train for the Kiltwalk!

Gillian: “We felt that this was something that families in Aberdeen could really benefit from. While James always seemed happy to take part in normal things, he did feel like he was always on the back foot, a bit behind everyone else, it would have been great to have social activities with other kids undergoing treatment, others in the same boat.

“Having a Jak’s Den in Aberdeen would also provide a facility where parents would have the chance to meet and support each other, not because you want to talk about cancer all the time, but sometimes it’s just easier to spend time with someone whose life is a little more like your own, to have normal conversations and do normal things, but with someone who really gets how you feel and what your life is like.”

Gillian and the STV Aberdeen Kiltwalk team in 2017.
Gillian and the STV Aberdeen Kiltwalk team in 2017.

“Since volunteering and fundraising for Team Jak, I have enjoyed meeting the others involved and have found this really supportive. James has recently enjoyed a couple of activities also and, although he feels his treatment journey is behind him, it has been good for him to be around others to realise he was not the only one.”

You can help Team Jak continue to support children like James when you sign up for the Kiltwalk and choose Team Jak as your charity.