‘Heartbroken’ Gislingham engineer who lost his teenage son to cancer wants his memory to live on through fundraising

Jenny Townsend, centre, from Teenage Cancer Trust with Kevin Cook, Left, Peter George, and Teresa Bridgeman. Photo: Keith Mindham Photography.
Jenny Townsend, centre, from Teenage Cancer Trust with Kevin Cook, Left, Peter George, and Teresa Bridgeman. Photo: Keith Mindham Photography.
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A ‘heartbroken’ engineer who lost his teenage son to cancer has thanked supporters for a tremendous start to a year of fundraising in his memory.

Jack Cook, of Gislingham, described by friends as “the most lovely lad with a beautiful smile”, died of leukaemia on February 7, 2015.

Jack Cook. Submitted photo.

Jack Cook. Submitted photo.

The former Stradbroke High School pupil was only 18.

Now his father Kevin hopes his memory will live on as he attempts to raise as much as possible for the only UK charity dedicated to improving the quality of life, and chances of survival, for young people — the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Jack was 13 when he was diagnosed. The family had just begun a holiday in America when it became clear he was not feeling well.

“He was not at his best,” Mr Cook, 46, recalled. “He could not walk further than 10 steps and he did not want to do anything on holiday.

He was really strong during his chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and he was a very, very brave teenager

Kevin Cook

“So on the fourth day we went to an emergency clinic where a blood test was taken and, within two hours of arriving at the clinic, he was diagnosed with leukaemia.”

He said Jack had fainted at school but there had been no obvious signs he was about to be diagnosed with cancer.

But the youngster courageously dealt with the impacts, even fundraising while he was receiving treatment at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. He spent three years fighting the cancer, and went into remission, only for it to return.

In October 2014, he raised money for Bloodwise, formerly Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, by taking part in the Ipswich Big Fun Run.

Kevin Cook with Jenny Townsend from Teenage Cancer Trust. Photo: Keith Mindham Photography.

Kevin Cook with Jenny Townsend from Teenage Cancer Trust. Photo: Keith Mindham Photography.

Jack, in a wheelchair, and his best friend, Lewis Whatling, smashed their £300 target for the 5k run, raising £1,120.

“Jack handled his cancer brilliantly and I am so proud of him,” added Mr Cook.

“It was horrible when he was diagnosed but Jack, who hated needles, put up with countless injections.

“He was really strong during his chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and he was a very, very brave teenager. What he missed during those years was time spent with his mates.”

Jenny Townsend, foreground, from Teenage Cancer Trust with Kevin Cook, red shirt, Teresa Bridgeman and Peter George. Photo: Keith Mindham Photography.

Jenny Townsend, foreground, from Teenage Cancer Trust with Kevin Cook, red shirt, Teresa Bridgeman and Peter George. Photo: Keith Mindham Photography.

The Cook family have now got their fundraising underway — and are also being supported by Mr Cook’s employers Malthouse Security, near Diss, which has chosen the trust as their charity of the year.

The first fundraising event, a quiz at Gislingham Village Hall in January, was attended by more than 100 people and raised more than £1,500.

Mr Cook said he was “thrilled” with the response from the community.

“£1,000 would have been brilliant but the final total was so much more,” he explained. “That was a fantastic night, hopefully the first of more to come.

“Teenage Cancer Trust really looked after him at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and we have had a chat with the local representative and said we want the money to stay in East Anglia.

“What will happen is that some of the money will go to the Teenage Cancer Trust unit on ward C9 at Addenbrooke’s and some will be spent on the Teenage Cancer Trust Education programme, educating children in schools to help them look out for the signs of cancer.”

Peter George, owner of Malthouse Security, said: “It is very sad when you lose a loved one, whether that be a member of the family, relative or a friend.

“Kevin lost his son at such a young age from cancer, and we all felt the loss as well.

“We are delighted that the first event was such a success and we thank everyone for all their support, and that the village hall committee kindly donated the use of the venue for free.”

n For more on the Teenage Cancer Trust, visit www.teenagecancertrust.org