I was shaving my legs when I felt a pea-sized bump – three doctors told me not to worry but then a fourth discovered something far more sinister…
Jade Cook was just 21 when she moved from England to Queensland and was diagnosed with terminal cancer – all after visiting three separate doctors who insisted she was ‘perfectly healthy’.
The now 34-year-old mother was working as a spa therapist on cruise ships in Europe when she first noticed a pea-sized lump on her thigh while shaving her legs.
‘I had it checked on board and was told to wait until I was back on shore. It was then checked again and doctors thought it was just a cyst,’ Jade told FEMAIL. “Several doctors said to just leave it and see if it goes away.”
“None of the doctors did an ultrasound or a biopsy,” she shared. ‘There were no scans. They just looked at it to see if anything came out. Looking back, I’m very angry about how I was fired.’
The lump had grown to the size of a golf ball and was throbbing when she decided to have it checked a fourth time.
‘I went with my friend in Australia to the doctor who needed to fill a prescription and begged them to do something about it. She finally decided to take it off and send it for tests – and then it turned out that it wasn’t just a cyst, it was a tumor that had started to spread.’
Jade Cook was just 21 when she moved from England to Queensland and was diagnosed with terminal cancer (pictured with her family)
Jade then had to keep a close eye on her breast and the rest of her body for signs of cancer.
‘I was in a new country, I didn’t know anyone, and I had a tumor growing inside me with no idea if it was getting worse. The doctors told me it was a high risk of spreading to my legs, which would be fatal,’ she said.
‘If there’s a message I can put out there, it’s to take your health seriously. If you feel a lump or anything suspicious, insist on an ultrasound or a biopsy, even if it’s against your doctor. It’s better to be safe than sorry.’
Jade had to wait five months for the operation – all the while afraid the cancer would spread.
Unfortunately, since doctors determined that the cancer was a sarcoma, there was no explanation as to why this had occurred.
Sarcoma is a type of cancer that can occur in different parts of the body
Scientists don’t know exactly what causes most soft tissue sarcomas, but they have found some risk factors that can make a person more likely to develop them.
Jade had to wait five months for the operation – all the while afraid the cancer would spread
‘I wasn’t very educated about my health, but I didn’t do anything bad. I didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, no drugs.
‘People kept telling me that I don’t need to exercise or watch what I eat because I’m naturally slimmer – but that’s just not true. Exercise, getting your heart rate up, being able to eat the right things are all important. Being able to work on your mindset is important.’
She started radiotherapy in October 2012 after the wounds from the surgery healed.
“One of the hardest things to go through physically was the radiation – it’s like someone has a blowtorch to your leg – and I had it every day for six weeks from Monday to Friday,” Jade said.
‘It’s like they burned my leg and increased the intensity as I went through the treatment. At first it just felt like sunburn, then it felt more painful.’
She slept without a doona and doctors did not recommend putting bandages on her leg because the skin was so sensitive that it would just ‘peel off’.
The side effects of the radiation became so bad that she was unable to walk or work for an entire month.
The side effects of the radiation became so bad that Jade was unable to walk or work for an entire month
At the time, Jade had no friends, except for one woman who worked with her on the ships.
‘I did meet someone but it was a bit scary for him – we only dated for a few weeks and suddenly I had cancer. In hindsight, I can understand why he was a little distant.
‘But he introduced me to his family and they were absolutely amazing.
‘They took me under their wing, drove his mum and to hospital appointments, his sister and brother were studying to be nurses so they offered to bandage me to train.
“I met some more friends along the way and they cooked me dinner and invited me around to hang out.”
The friends Jade made along the way became her ‘second family’ and support system.
‘I just had to stay mentally strong and push through it. Everyone kept telling me to go home but I don’t come from a lot of money – I didn’t have enough to move my whole life back.
‘I felt that my dream of coming to Australia and starting a business would end before it started if I moved back.’
Jade ran salons for seven years before branching out into the e-commerce side of business with Brow Bible Academy offering online beauty therapy courses and beauty products
Jade held a casual job as a spa therapist to pay for her rent and treatments while going through her cancer journey.
She eventually started her own business in the eyebrow industry and turned into a beauty mogul.
‘I always had the desire to open my own business and felt it was the perfect time because there wasn’t a lot of competition, so I rented a space and after five months I was completely booked out,’ she said.
From there she opened her own salon, eventually hiring eight staff and opening a second salon in Cairns with 14 employees.
She ran the salons for seven years before branching out into the e-commerce side of business with Brow Bible Academy, which offers online beauty therapy courses and beauty products.
By 2020, when Covid hit and millions of people were forced into their homes, the brand was doing $30,000 in one week.