Some people get all the luck, and some people don’t — which is why Jason Young’s journey from chronic illness, to brain tumour, to opening a burger joint is more than inspiring. It’s remarkable.
The South Coast dad and his wife Emma made their dream of opening Stacks Burger House in Kiama Downs a reality in December, after two hellish years which began with Jason’s diagnosis of EoE.
The former painter was diagnosed with Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), a chronic auto immune condition, in 2016. EoE causes inflammation of the oesophagus, causing sufferers to choke on food and drink. It affects about one per cent of adults in Australia.
“It basically makes you feel like your drowning and is very painful. I was a tradie and had a small business but due to me not being able to get it under control, I had to change careers as food dust and chemicals can all be triggers,” he said.
As he learned to manage his condition, the couple began building a business plan to start Stacks Burger House and in 2018, signed a lease on a shop near their home.
But three months into the fit-out, Jason began feeling unwell. He was diagnosed with acoustic neuroma, a fast-growing brain tumour.
For Emma, it was a nightmare, as her mother had died from a brain tumour when she was just 22. Emma was also 37 weeks pregnant at the time with their second child.
Doctors gave Jason enough time to see her deliver their son Lenny, and spend two weeks bonding with him before he underwent major surgery.
“The surgery was ten hours and waking up after was truly the most painful and horrendous feeling. The room is spinning, and you cannot make it stop as they had severed my hearing and balance nerve that the tumour had wrapped itself around,” he said
“I was lucky they found it when they did as a few weeks more would have been a different story.”
While the surgery was a success, recovery has been a long road, but with a lease signed on their business to be, the couple had no choice but to push on. Emma has driven the business along as Jason relearned to walk and adapt to the loss of his sonic hearing and balance. He still struggles with severe bouts of vertigo, migraines and pain.
“It’s like a boat losing an engine on one side, so learning to walk again and just have the confidence to stand upright, which was really hard, it was just exhausting.
“I just took every little step to just try and get back because I knew we had that shop that we were financially committed to.”
Emma said without the overwhelming support of family and friends, and the people in their small community, they would never have managed. The business is thriving and Jason manages to get down to the cafe for a few hours most days.
The family business is also putting burgers on the map on the South Coast, with its farm-to-plate philosophy showcasing local produce including premium grade grass feed meat and bacon from the Southern Highlands.
The food and service has drawn great reviews online, and the positive response from customers has played a big part in Jason’s recovery.
“I felt like I was letting my family down not being able to work and putting them in that situation, so it’s a big thing to be able to share all this,” he said.
“I’ve probably found a bit of comfort from the community down here, and people visiting the shop who’ve come to support us,” Jason said.
“There is a lot of good out there, it makes me feel better talking about it and it’s helped me with my recovery in facing something that’s so traumatic.”
Stacks Burger House is a farm to plate cafe, using locally sourced produce including premium grade grass feed meat and bacon from the Southern Highlands.
Where: 21 Johnson St, Kiama Downs
Open: Sunday to Wednesday 7am to 3pm and Thursday to Saturday 7am to 8pm
Phone: 0422 307 755 or visit their Facebook page