A young personal trainer was given a shock throat cancer diagnosis less than a year after breaking his neck in a freak motorbike accident.
Jake O’Brien, from Sydney, was involved in the horror crash in March 2019 and diagnosed with laryngeal cancer in January 2020 after developing a hoarse voice – which was his only symptom.
The 28-year-old told Daily Mail Australia he has always maintained a healthy lifestyle, doesn’t smoke, has no family history of cancer and was working as a personal trainer before the diagnosis.
Doctors believe there was no link between the motorbike accident and his cancer.
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Jake O’Brien, from Sydney, (pictured) was involved in a collision in March 2019 and diagnosed with laryngeal cancer in January 2020 after developing a hoarse voice – which was his only symptom
The 28-year-old told Daily Mail Australia he has always maintained a healthy lifestyle, doesn’t smoke and was working as a personal trainer prior to the prognosis
Jake’s world unravelled on the afternoon of March 17, 2019 when he was riding home from work on a busy road in Sydney’s northern suburbs.
‘I was in the bus lane when a four-wheel drive ahead from the next lane over suddenly cut across my lane to take a side street,’ he said.
Jake said the driver failed to indicate and didn’t see him before switching lanes, not allowing enough time or distance for him to brake.
He was knocked unconscious at 60km per hour and ‘doesn’t remember anything’ before waking up ten minutes later, 20 metres further down the road and surrounded by a crowd of strangers.
On March 17, 2019 Jake was involved in a horrid motorbike accident after riding home from work on a busy road in Sydney’s northern suburbs
Jake claims the driver failed to indicate and didn’t see him before switching lanes, not allowing enough time or distance for Jake to brake
‘All the injuries where on the right side of my body – broken ribs, a pneumothorax (collapsed lung), crushed foot and four breaks to my spine including a hangman fracture (in the neck),’ he said.
The hangman fracture refers to a break in a bone known as C2 – the second bone down from the skull in the neck vertebrae.
Jake said this ‘serious’ fracture required a permanent spinal fusion of the C1 and C2 bones.
The incident affected Jake’s ability to walk for the first four months following as he wasn’t allowed to put any weight on his right foot.
He also had to wear a Miami collar at all times for six months due to the fractures in his neck and spine.
‘Now my neck can’t rotate properly which is the main physical change,’ he said.
‘Now my neck can’t rotate properly which is the main physical change,’ he said, but feels extremely lucky to be alive as a hangman fracture often leads to death
At the end of 2019 after Jake had a cervical spinal fusion and reconstruction on his foot to be able to start walking again, then started developing hoarseness to his voice
At the end of 2019 after Jake had a cervical spinal fusion and reconstruction on his foot to be able to start walking again, then started developing hoarseness to his voice.
‘It got worse instead of better even though there was no reason for it,’ he said, adding how he doesn’t smoke and hardly drank alcohol.
‘I had been asked to MC at a friend’s wedding and by the time the date rolled around my voice was obliterated. So after the most embarrassing night of my life I booked in to see an ENT specialist.’
The physician quickly detected a number of small lumps in Jake’s throat near his vocal cords, but assured him it’s ‘nothing to worry about’ as these inflamed lumps are common among personal trainers and those who speak loudly often.
An ENG specialist detected lumps in Jake’s throat and he was quickly diagnosed with laryngeal cancer – a type of cancer that impacts the larynx or voice box
‘One minute it’s ‘probably nothing to worry about’ and then all of a sudden you’re in the waiting room of the Cancer Patient section of the hospital,’ he said
But results from a biopsy indicated the lumps were due to laryngeal cancer – a type of cancer that impacts the larynx or voice box in the throat with symptoms including a sore throat, lump in the neck and changes to the voice.
Jake said he was ‘completely shocked’ and ‘out of place’ considering his young age and healthy lifestyle.
‘One minute it’s “probably nothing to worry about” and then all of a sudden you’re in the waiting room of the Cancer Patient section of the hospital,’ he said.
Jake then had one session of laser therapy surgery in attempt to incinerate the tumours with hope the cancer won’t grow back – but it did so he proceeded with radiation.
The radiotherapy took place every day for the first five weeks then became less frequent.
The impact from treatment affected the external skin on his throat with surrounding redness and made it difficult to swallow.
What is laryngeal cancer and what are the symptoms?
Laryngeal cancer is a type of throat cancer that affects your larynx – the voice box. It contains cartilage and muscles that enable you to talk
- Hoarse voice
- Breathing difficulties
- Excessive coughing
- Cough with blood
- Neck pain
- Sore throat
- Ear pain
- Trouble swallowing food
- Neck swelling
- Neck lumps
- Sudden weight loss
- Heavy alcohol use
- Poor nutrition
- Human papillomavirus exposure
- Immune system problems
- Workplace exposure to toxins, such as asbestos
- Certain genetic diseases
Jake then had one session of laser therapy surgery in attempt to incinerate the tumours and surrounding flesh with hope the cancer won’t grow back, but it did so he proceeded with radiation
The impact from treatment affected the skin on his throat with surrounding redness. Jake shared a photo on his Instagram page highlighting the improvement and changes to his external skin (pictured)
This week Jake had his first check-up appointment in months and while he was nervous about the tumour returning, the oncologist said he is now cancer-free.
He said both the accident and diagnosis has not only impacted his physical health but mental wellbeing.
‘It felt like the world was against me and for a while I was severely depressed,’ he said.
‘These days I try and use my experiences as fuel to push me forward in life. I feel like it’s made me a stronger person for the better – more resilient, grateful and more focused on what’s important,’ he said.
Jake has shared his story on Instagram and TikTok to encourage others to ‘take responsibility of your own life’ and be diligent with health checks.