In 2011, Jake Burton had one of his heart valves repaired at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Several months later, he arrived at the clinic for a follow-up appointment. He had begun to suffer from flu-like symptoms in the weeks leading up to his appointment, and by the time he arrived in Minnesota, he was in constant pain.
“They admitted me to the hospital and started running tests,” he said. “And they decided to do a biopsy.”
Jake was diagnosed with Stage III seminoma, a form of testicular cancer. His oncologist at the Mayo Clinic prescribed a course of chemotherapy, and in conversation with Medical Oncologist Dr. Steven Ades of the UVM Medical Center, recommended that Jake be treated in Burlington.
“While it was great to be out in Minnesota and to get such a thorough and quick diagnosis,” Jake says, “I definitely wanted to be treated in Vermont.”
He began four cycles of chemotherapy at the UVM Medical Center. He would spend a few hours a day at the hospital for five days at a time, and then he was off chemotherapy for the next two weeks. His friends and family drove him from his home in Stowe to Burlington and back for every appointment.
Jake was surprised that he felt fine during the first few days of treatment. But once the nausea and vomiting began, he knew he was in for a rough ride. He describes those early days as his “rock bottom.”
He found comfort – and confidence – in his oncologist, Dr. Steven Ades.
“He’s a really terrific guy. He’s uplifting, has a sense of humor,” says Jake. “He would always be very honest about the fact that he was poisoning you and if you can survive treatment, you’re in good shape. He called a spade a spade.”
Jake’s chemotherapy was finished around Thanksgiving. Soon afterward, pathology tests showed that Jake was cancer free.
As the successful founder of Burton Snowboards, Jake had the flexibility to take time off of work during treatment and recovery. An avid snowboarder, he prides himself on riding 100 days a year. In the winter of 2011-2012, he still got nearly 65 days in – though he was often too tired to take more than one run.
“When treatment is all done, you expect yourself to just get better and better right away, but there’s definitely a long lag there,” he says.
These days, Jake says he feels great and does interval training while he swims. He also tracks his time on his favorite hikes. His times continue to improve. And he visits the UVM Medical Center – and Dr. Ades – once every three months for a check-up and a CAT scan.
“Jake is a very down to earth person who was so easy to work with,” says Dr. Ades. “He put his trust in me from day one. He was ready to juggle running his company and making time to undergo pretty aggressive therapy – just by putting his left foot first, then his right foot first.”
Jake says that he learned a lot about life from his cancer experience.
“It’s not that I thought I was immortal, but it’s easy to take your health and everything for granted,” Jake says. “I’m not a big fan of that word ‘survivor,’ but I guess it becomes clear why they use that word after you go through cancer treatment – because it is a battle.”