Keep Smiling: My Cancer Story

Meet Jared Adams, a remarkable 22-year-old who, after his own experience with cancer, was inspired to write a children’s book. Keep Smiling: My Cancer Story. He was kind enough to share his experience with us.

Midway through my freshman semester of college, I started having a lazy-eye issue with my left eye. A few months later, I began having trouble with my balance. Soon after that, I had multiple problems with dizziness and I noticed I could not hear as well in my left ear. During that time, I was working over 70 hours a week at my local pool. I was the head coach of the swim team, a manager of the outdoor pool, a swimming lessons instructor, and I was pursuing my Red Cross Lifeguard Training certification. Thinking I might have an issue like an ear infection, my mom took me to see an Ear Nose and Throat doctor. A trip to the Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor determined that the hearing capacity of my left ear was significantly damaged. The doctor ordered an MRI, and the scan revealed a brain tumor that was confirmed to be malignant.

First, I saw an oncologist from the adult world, who recommended that I get treatment from a children’s hospital. So at 19 years old, I began my cancer treatment at a children’s hospital. The surgery was as successful as I could have hoped. The diagnosis showed I had a Medulloblastoma tumor in the back left side of my brain, which caused vision, balance, and hearing issues. At first, I could not walk, so I rode in a wheelchair and then wore a gait belt until I could walk safely. After surgery, my eyes were worse than before, so I wore an eye-patch for a month while I worked on retraining them. I also permanently lost 100% of the hearing in my left ear, and the strength and coordination in my left hand and arm were damaged.

During radiation and chemo, I received Vitamin C IV’s three times a week. They greatly improved my energy levels every time I got one, which was usually Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Before my Monday treatments, I always felt more tired due to having gone over three days without one. In addition to the energy bump, they kept my immune system as healthy and strong as possible during radiation and chemo. While less frequent, I still receive Vitamin C IV’s to support my immune system and help prevent cancer cells from growing.

I do have some lasting physical side effects from my cancer treatments, including left-side weakness in my hand, arm, and leg. My balance is off at times, and I have permanent deafness in my left ear. The chemo caused neuropathy in my feet, and I also experience some cognitive issues involving slower processing speeds and decision-making skills. I can also be easily distracted.

Before my diagnosis, I sought a career in marketing or finance. Upon returning to school, I changed my major to Elementary Education. After two years of classes, I decided to take a break from college and not to pursue a career in teaching. Processing and adapting to new information combined with some physical sensitivities didn’t make teaching impossible, but it did make it difficult enough for me to seek other career options that were a better fit for my new speed.

Despite some struggles and changes, I did go back to school, and I earned all A’s. Without my Children’s Literature class, I would not have written Keep Smiling, a book based on my experience with brain cancer. I wrote it to encourage children and families going through difficult times in life to continue to make happy memories. I also hope to help children who are not going through medical hardships to understand what their friends or classmates might be facing. All of the proceeds from this book go to the Victory Project KC, a foundation that supports local children going through cancer by creating positive experiences and raising funds.

Now I am 22, my scans have looked good so far, and I am gaining strength back day by day. Getting my wisdom teeth out felt so easy after going through cancer treatment! I have taken up my old hobby of disc golf and have played over 1000 holes this year alone. I made friends with other brain tumor survivors, and found new passions for word games, organization, serving others, and gift-giving. I am still taking care of my whole body by receiving Vitamin C IV’s, attempting to eat a healthy diet, staying physically active, and keeping mentally active.

Jared’s book Keep Smiling: My Cancer Story can be purchased on Amazon.
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