Michael's Story: Jacko’s Journey

Michael's Story: Jacko’s Journey
In a few short days, the Jackowitz family will take part in the annual Hamilton-Niagara Brain Tumour Walk – it’s the first time the family can do this all together, as in 2015, son and brain tumour survivor Michael wasn’t able to participate due to radiation treatments. As team Jacko’s Journey, the family walks in tribute to Michael, 37, and the immense journey he’s been on since 2010.
What started for Michael as headaches and vision trouble was soon uncovered as a serious medical issue that changed his life forever. Today, Michael is legally blind, has seizures and can no longer work or drive due to a brain tumour. He has a 16-month old daughter he loves tremendously, but struggles with the new dependence he has on other people to help him with his daily life. This is Michael’s story. 
An MRI scan in January 2010 showed a brain tumour but its location in Michael’s brain made it impossible to remove completely, or risk losing his eyesight entirely. Complications from the initial surgery to take out as much tumour as possible resulted in swelling around Michael’s brain and he was rushed into another operation to relieve the pressure in his skull. It wasn’t until two months later that Michael could finally undergo the second part of his treatment plan: 30 rounds of radiation. 
For two years, the remaining tumour in Michael’s brain was considered atypical but non-cancerous. The mass was stable but a routine MRI in March 2012 showed tumour regrowth. Sadly, this wasn’t the only shock Michael faced during this time. One week before his third brain surgery in June, Michael’s fiancée passed away unexpectedly in her sleep. Despite the tragedy, the operation went ahead as scheduled and, again, as much of the tumour was removed as possible. After physically recovering, Michael had five rounds of stronger radiation but it didn’t stop the tumour’s further spread. In October 2013, Michael had his fourth brain surgery and doctors said radiation was no longer a further treatment option. Michael had to start monthly chemotherapy injections– and he continues with them to this day, almost three years later. 
Sadly, the tumour persisted and another surgery in November 2014 removed more regrowth. Because of the multiple operations in the same location on Michael’s skull, he couldn’t heal properly and was hospitalized for six additional weeks. A piece of titanium mesh replaced the piece of unsalvageable skull, but spinal fluid continued to leak from the surgical incision in Michael’s head. It was then that Michael’s doctors also found a shunt inserted in 2010 was no longer functioning and needed replacing. Plastic surgery followed the shunt replacement, to graft skin around and over the mesh, and to halt any further spinal fluid leakage. Surprisingly, in spite of prior recommendations that radiation was no longer possible, Michael was able to undergo 30 more rounds of the treatment in hopes of stopping the tumour once and for all. And it did stop growing – until a scan in January 2016 showed the tumour had changed again, now spreading into open spaces in Michael’s brain. With surgical removal out of the question, for the next two months, Michael and his family were in ‘wait and see’ mode until his next MRI scheduled for March, which thankfully showed that the mass was finally stable. Now, Michael awaits his next scan – booked, perhaps serendipitously, the day after the 2016 Hamilton-Niagara Brain Tumour Walk
Michael plans to join his family at this year’s local fundraiser in support of Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada, when they walk as team Jacko’s Journey for a second time. Cathy, Michael’s mom and caregiver, who had to retire early to care for her son, says she does the Brain Tumour Walk after finding it valuable to read about other success stories on the Foundation’s website. “It helps to know that others are going through the same thing and that there are success stories of people beating brain tumours.” 
Michael, his parents Cathy and Mike, and his sisters Stasia and Stefanie, stay strong in the face of the overwhelming obstacles, choosing to never give up hope and to find comfort in the promise of brain tumour research. For Cathy, it’s especially significant that there be advancements related to repairing the blindness Michael acquired due to the brain tumour: “Our dream for Michael is that he will see his daughter grow up.”
Thank you to Michael and your family for sharing this story. We can't wait to see you at the Brain Tumour Walk event!


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