Bereaved family and friends have signed up for a day of fundraising to thank the children’s hospice that cared for a brave ten-year-old with a rare form of cancer. J-Jay Wood, from Colchester, was diagnosed with clear cell sarcoma in 2021.
The tumour was in his pelvis and dug into the base of his spine and left hip, which meant it was impossible to operate. However, he defied the odds and lived for another 18 months, before losing his battle last November.
Now a group of 17 family members and friends are gearing up for a day of wacky obstacles, water and mud after signing up for The Piglet Junior Hog, organised by East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH).
The four-kilometre course is open to those wishing to run with children and their family, or those looking for a shorter route compared to EACH’s adults-only Whole Hog, in October.
“There wasn’t a moment’s hesitation when we read about it,” said Jessica Fotheringham, the cousin of J-Jay’s mum, Marie. The pair are also best friends. We instantly knew it was something we wanted to do and there’s going to be 17 of us, including three children, my husband, Craig, and my middle son, Hayden.
“We’ll be joined by various aunts and uncles, plus other family members and friends, and it’s going to be a very fun day. We’re a tight group but what’s happened has made us even closer, if that’s possible.
“We can’t wait to have some fun together, while at the same time celebrating J-Jay’s life and helping raise vital funds for EACH.”
The group, called J-Jay’s Turtles, will all be wearing t-shirts featuring a treasured photo of the former Brinkley Grove Primary School pupil. They will also be lime green, which was his favourite colour.
Jessica, who lives in Kesgrave, says everyone is keen to show their support and gratitude to EACH. J-Jay and his family received care and support at The Treehouse, in Ipswich.
The charity continues to offer bereavement counselling to J-Jay’s sister, Jenna, seven, and Jessica’s eight-year-old daughter Willow.
“It was a horrific time but the nurses were incredible,” said Jessica, who was there when J-Jay died.
“They couldn’t have done more for us and were even kind enough to come to the funeral. It was invaluable and I don’t know where we’d have been without it.
“It could have been catastrophic and would definitely have been overwhelming. That support continues to this day and they’ve always been on hand with advice – always on the other end of the phone.
“I say that from personal experience because of my daughter Willow’s grief. She’s suffered terribly and, as parents, it’s been an immensely worrying, tough and tense time.
“It’s also been exhausting. Her moods have been all over the place – from tears and tantrums to running around doing cartwheels, all in the space of 20 minutes.
“However, now we feel on top of things, as though we’re nipping it in the bud, and that’s only been possible because of EACH. I don’t know how we’d have coped or survived otherwise and can’t thank EACH enough.”
J-Jay initially complained of leg pain and took Ibuprofen. Then he had a night where he could not sleep and was taken to A&E at Colchester Hospital, before being rushed to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.
The cancer was so rare that doctors initially struggled to diagnose it. J-Jay received several rounds of chemotherapy but it was impossible to remove the tumour, because of its position in his body.
“He was such a lovely little boy with a huge smile and cracking sense of humour,” added Jessica.
“I always thought of him as my nephew, rather than my cousin’s son, because we were so close. He was an absolute joy to be around and spend time with.”
Nearly 1,000 people signed up last year for last year’s event, helping raise more than £31,000. For more details, head here.
EACH has a busy schedule of events planned for 2023, including two Pier 2 Pier walks, a Bubble Rush, its first-ever Tree Top Drop Challenge and the Ride for Life cycle challenge, in September. For more details, head here.