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Jed Smiling

Jed McDonald, 17

His life was just taking off.”

My son Jed was diagnosed with a Pilocytic Astrocytoma in June 2017, when he was in the middle of Year 12.

Before the diagnosis

His life was just taking off, his friends beginning to turn 18, enrolling for uni, going to the pub! He was an excellent soccer player and although his game went a little off, we thought he’d had a growth spurt and lost some coordination, but then a few headaches started.

The scan

We had been for an MRI scan in the afternoon. Whilst the scan was taking place the radiologist came out to seek my permission to inject some dye into Jed to get better imaging. As soon as he asked this I just sat there and waited for Jed’s scan to be done, but I knew that this request meant there was something to be seen.

The call

We all came home, we’d just finished dinner and Jed was doing his homework. It was 7pm. My mobile rang but I missed the call, my husband’s mobile rang and we missed that too. Then the home phone rang and we rushed to pick it up as that never rings.

The diagnosis

It was our GP. He was awkward and said, “There is no easy way to say this but he had just received a call regarding Jed’s MRI results. Jed has a glioma – I have little more information than that. I can’t tell you if it’s a good one or a nasty one. The hospital has asked you to go immediately to the emergency department of the Royal Adelaide Hospital. There is swelling in Jed’s brain which needs immediate attention.”

I then had to tell Jed. It felt surreal. All I could think was, “He’s just too beautiful for anything to happen to him.”

We were all in shock, but adrenaline kicked in and we all went straight to hospital. My husband even crashed the car against a post in the carpark.

Jed was quiet, calm, brave and somehow seemed to be in total control, with a belief everything would be OK.

The surgery

With surgery two days later, our lives were never to be the same. He underwent three brain surgeries: two here in Adelaide, one with neurosurgeon Charlie Teo. But Jed never walked unaided again and he never got to go to the pub with his mates.

The years after

Jed passed in June 2019, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2019. I have now completed treatment and can focus on how I can possibly make a difference for others. Breast cancer didn’t touch the sides, compared to my son’s brain cancer journey.

The support

Jed and our family have been magnificently supported by his five best friends, who at 17 years of age, were and still are truly remarkable. The football club that I work for, were all set to trek Kokoda [postponed due to covid] to fundraise and support families suffering brain cancer.

Jed McDonald’s diagnosis has been generously donated by his mum, Louise McDonald.