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BY Jessica Cuthbert 
 
For Sergeant Jade Lay, cancer was easy. It was losing 20 years of memories that was the challenge. 
 
In July 2017, while working at the Joint Anti Child Exploitation Team (JACET) he was diagnosed with an aggressive stage 3 bowel cancer.
 
The cancer came as a shock to Jade, his family and his colleagues.
 
 The young father of two was fit, healthy and had no history of the insidious disease in his family. 
 
He remembers feeling angry and frustrated with his diagnosis, often asking himself, “why me?” 
 
“In this job I see people that do all sorts of heinous things to other people. Sometimes I could have wished they had cancer. Why me?” he told Police News.
 
“But that’s the thing about cancer, it’s indiscriminate and doesn’t care. It doesn’t matter if you are fit and healthy or some person on the street. You are susceptible.” 
 
Telling his Blue Family of his diagnosis was one of the hardest things he had ever had to do. 
 
 “I had to tell them I had stage 3 cancer and that I didn’t know what would happen. It was a very small and close team, everyone was shocked but the team were very supportive of me.” 
 
In order to beat the disease, he started treatments instantly undergoing six rounds of chemotherapy in hospital, through a drip 24/7 as well as radio treatment while continuing to work as a Detective Senior Constable at JACET.
 
Jade’s cancer was diminishing and the treatment was working well.
 
Until it wasn’t.
 
Little did Jade or his doctors know that the chemotherapy he was having to save his life would later stop his heart- killing him.
 
Throughout his illness and treatments, he didn’t let his diagnosis stop or change his life.
 
He continued working, kept up his cycling and remarkably was going through the process of a promotion to Sergeant.
 
That process, however was suddenly halted. 
 
Six weeks into his treatment and so close to the end, Jade’s heart stopped.
 
On September 12, 2017 he had just finished conducting a mock interview as preparation for his promotion and was cycling home.
 
On the familiar route home he noticed he was fatigued – more so than usual. 
 
“I remember feeling tired, really tired and that’s all I can remember until waking up in hospital.” 
 
He would later be informed of the events that followed. 
 
After he woke, Jade was told that he slowed down on his bike, halted to a stop and tumbled to the ground. 
 
A nearby tradesmen driving past saw Jade come off his bike but grew concerned when he didn’t brace himself for the fall or get up. 
The driver immediately pulled over to check on the unconscious police officer. 
 
“He pulled over and saw I was in a bad way, completely out of it and lucky enough some other people saw what happened and waved down an ambulance that was coming in the other direction,” Jade said.
 
By this stage, Jade’s heart had stopped. 
 
“I was dead. On the path.
 
“The paramedics came over and started bringing me back. Three times.” 
 
He laid dead on the path for almost 15 minutes between resuscitations. 
 
The tradie who first came to Jade’s assistance found his police wallet and business card and rang Jade’s colleagues.
 
Upon hearing their colleague and friend was in trouble, they rushed to the scene and were greeted by the sight of Jade being worked on and revived. 
 
“It was quite upsetting for them. One minute they were talking to me at work and the next I was dead on the side of the road,” he said.
 
Police officers are tasked with the confronting job of contacting family and friends in emergency situations, often telling someone a loved one has died. 
 
That day was no different. 
 
Instead it was their colleague’s wife they had to call instructing her to rush to the hospital. 
 
There she was met by Jade’s sergeant and work family who didn’t leave her side for hours. 
 
“Everyone was thinking I wasn’t going to pull through,” he said.
 
“The doctor asked if I had children and when they said yes he does, he said “Okay best to bring them in”. 
 
Everyone was told to say their goodbyes to their father, husband and fellow comrade. 
 
With the threat of brain injury-a result of being dead for 15 minutes-Jade’s condition was touch and go as he lay in a coma for the next few days.
 
Miraculously, days later he woke up.  
Jade Hospital 3
 
He woke, however to face a new challenge-his biggest one yet. 
 
Jade’s wife, children, colleagues and even his own identity was a stranger to him.
 
When he woke he had lost 20 years of his memories. 
 
The 37-year-old police officer from Perth, woke as a 17-year-old in year in his home town of Invercargill, New Zealand. 
 
“I remember being confused at the hospital I was in,” he said.
 
“Being told I was in Australia was different and asking for my girlfriend I had in 1997 was a bit awkward. I don’t remember it vividly but by the time I came around my father was there and my sisters, I remember they all looked older.” 
 
There are few words to describe waking up with two decades of precious memories lost. 
 
There are even less to explain the feeling of being re-introduced to your wife and learning you’re a father of two, but Jade described it as disbelief. 
 
He said learning he was a WA police officer on top of a husband and father felt surreal describing it as dreamlike.
 
One distinctive moment in relearning his identity has stuck with Jade over the years, a moment with his wife whom in his mind, he had just met for the first time.
 
“I was holding onto my wife’s hand and she was introducing herself, I was sitting there asking ‘so we are married? She said ‘yes’ and we have two kids?’ yes again.
 
“I said ‘right, I suppose I didn’t do too badly,” he laughed.  
 
Another moment he remembers vividly was ‘meeting’ his two young children.
 
“There aren’t many words to describe that feeling. It was a bit of a surprise more so than anything else,” he said. 
 
“I was a bit aloof thinking to myself ‘This is my kid, who is hugging me?’ I didn’t know what to feel, it wasn’t easy.” 
 
Fortunately his memories came back each day in the following weeks and life became easier for Jade and his family. 
 
He now sits at two per cent memory loss but still has significant memory gaps of special and sentimental moments he has lost. 
 
In his time working at JACET Jade was exposed to countless horrible and graphic material. 
 
Included in his memory loss is some of that child pornography– a loss he could deal with. 
 
A highlight in Jade’s career was working in a detective role. 
 
“I love it, I have a passion for it and it is utterly rewarding especially the child abuse prevention side of things,” he said. 
 
“Some of the stuff I have seen is terrible but the thing is – you need to remember it’s not your child. You need to do everything you can to try and help a child who has been abused or potentially will be abused.”
 
He said on occasion he and his team would meet up with people who thought they were meeting up with children.
 
“Instead they would met me and get busted, it was very satisfying.” 
 
After months of recovery after the incident Jade returned to work.
 
He returned to JACET and continued the process of his promotion to sergeant, in which he was successful. 
 
A monumental moment for Jade was the delivery of the promotion news.
 
“Within six weeks after dying I had most of my memories back but I was still suffering short term memory loss and was going through the interview process,” he said. 
 
He was told numerous times that he didn’t have to go through with the process- that people would understand after what he had gone through. 
 
 “I thought fuck it – what do I have to lose? I had everything to gain and nothing to lose.”
 
While he was recovering in hospital, Jade had the help and support of colleagues and inspectors who came to his bedside to conduct mock interviews. 
 
“The lists came out and a few of my mates had gotten in and some of them hadn’t unfortunately, but I still hadn’t gotten my phone call and didn’t know what the outcome was for me,” he said. 
 
 “Later that day I was at home and there was a knock on the door. I answered and it was the Assistant Commissioner Michelle Fyfe on my door step with a letter.
“To say I was a bit surprised would be an understatement. She handed the promotion to me in person. That was really special.”
 
The gesture was organised by Jade’s colleagues and family and was a testament to the overwhelming support and care he received from the whole experience. 
 
He said the support from Health and Safety Division and the Blue Family was phenomenal.
Jade and his wife were checked on regularly and ensured any outstanding medical bills were paid for.
 
“They made sure my wife was supported in every way possible.” he said. 
 
“It was a relief to be supported by people who I worked with and even indirectly worked with, flowers were coming from everywhere.
 
“I could never have imagined the support we received, I would not have imagined that at all.
 
“It’s not until something like this happens that you realise how supported you are in this job.”
 
In the span of Jade’s 12-year career he had no injuries, health issues or never needed health cover. 
 
He said to be diagnosed with cancer and almost die from the treatments and still get supported as if it was a work accident, was incredible. 
 
Also blown away by the phenomenal support was Jade’s wife, Sarah*  who said the level of care she and the family received from the WA Police Force during the experience exceeded all expectations. 
 
“From the time that he was diagnosed, Jade’s colleagues and supervisors truly demonstrated the kinship that exists within the WA Police Force,” Sarah told Police News. 
 
In addition to having no financial concerns while Jade underwent treatment, his colleagues ensured that he continued to be part of the team despite reduced duties, time out for appointments and just general fatigue. 
 
From the moment Sarah received the news of Jade’s cardiac arrest, she was surrounded and supported by many people within the Force. 
 
Past and present colleagues reached out and all the support services within the WA Police Force came out in full.
 
“I really felt as though I has been fully embraced by a family that I didn't know that I had,” she said.  
 
She reflected on the time they sat with her in the emergency room the night of the cardiac arrest refusing to leave, despite her protestations that they should head home to their own families. 
 
Jade’s Blue Family also visited regularly in the ICU and the high dependency ward. They brought chocolates, sent flowers and checked that bills could be paid.
 
Some colleagues even offered to drive her and the children wherever they needed to go and offered to mow their lawns. 
 
 “There was genuine desire to just make sure that whatever could be done to make my day a little easier was done. They made it abundantly clear that Jade was valued and important to them and as he began his recovery, they never stepped back and called time on their support,” Sarah said.
During his recovery, the WA Police Force continued to be in his corner and provide ongoing support.
 
From the mock interviews in hospital rooms, bringing tea and biscuits to their home and providing laughs and distraction post each of his operations, friendship and support was never far away. 
 
Describing her husband as phenomenal, Sarah said from the point of diagnosis, the mantra was that he was too stubborn to let something like cancer get in the way of him living his life the way he intended. 
 
“Life then decided to up the stakes with the cardiac arrest but that didn't change where he was headed even if he forgot where that was for a little while,” Sarah said. 
 
“I am incredibly proud of my husband but not surprised by what he has continued to achieve and with his track record, I wouldn't expect anything less.”
 
After the whole ordeal of Jade slowly recovering his memories, he still woke with cancer. However, the weeks of chemotherapy leading up the accident was effective as the cancer had shrunk. 
 
He underwent two surgeries to remove the cancer and today he is living cancer free. 
 
After being promoted to Sergeant, Jade worked at the Perth Police Station for a few weeks until he was promoted to the Perth Watch House. 
 
He said while he would have loved to be posted to a detective office, he understood he was still in recovery. 
 
The now sergeant who died and lived to tell the tale said when his time is done at the Perth Watch House, he would love to be a detective again.
 
 “That’s my passion, I have always had that drive,” Jade said. 
 
Looking back, Jade said his relationship with death hasn’t changed nor does he see what happened to him as a second chance rather, just something else that happened in his life he had to overcome. 
 
 “I don’t look at life too differently. I just try and spend as much time with family as I can.
 
 “For me cancer was easy, the surgery was easy. It was the memory loss from dying that was the hardest. That is probably something that still sits on me – it plays on your mind.
 
“It was worse because I did have children, but if you sit there and get sad about what you may have lost – you’ll beat yourself up over it constantly.
 
“I’m alive, that’s all that matters.”
 
His message to others is simple - enjoy life.
 
“People live with their phones in front of their faces constantly, they aren’t having conversations. Live your life with other people, keep your head up and look around, enjoy life.
 
“Enjoy the moments with family and kids. Life happens very quickly and nobody knows when it could be gone.”
 
JDP 1668
 
 
 
 
 
*Sarah's name have been changed at the Members request.