Double cancer loss spurs two north Norfolk men on to one of the country’s toughest off-road challenges

PUBLISHED: 07:26 12 May 2015 | UPDATED: 07:26 12 May 2015

Robert Haylett ( left) and Jason Cockaday (right). Picture by Chris Taylor Photo

Robert Haylett ( left) and Jason Cockaday (right). Picture by Chris Taylor Photo

(C) Chris Taylor Photo

The loss of two friends to cancer in the space of four months has spurred a north Norfolk upholsterer to tackle one of the country’s toughest off-road challenges.

West Runton'sTim Stubbs, who died of cancer on April 13, 2015, pictured at his neice's wedding in 2013. Credit must read: Chris Biele/PixBeatphotoWest Runton'sTim Stubbs, who died of cancer on April 13, 2015, pictured at his neice's wedding in 2013. Credit must read: Chris Biele/PixBeatphoto

Jason Cockaday, 41, has joined forces with Badersfield friend Rob Haylett, 28, to bike across a 46-mile Northumbrian hill range, taking in 6,500ft of ascent – the equivalent of climbing Ben Nevis twice.

Mr Cockaday, of Birch Grove, in Sheringham, is raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support, in memory of close friends David Ryan and Tim Stubbs.

Mr Ryan, who was in his late 50s, was diagnosed with cancer just after Christmas last year, and died weeks later.

The duo had already decided to tackle the Clennell Colossus, an off-road route in the Cheviot Hills, when West Runton friend Mr Stubbs died from an aggressive form of liver cancer at the age of 42.

Tim Stubbs

Tim Stubbs was a keen biker, carpet fitter, adored younger brother and uncle to his nieces and nephews.

The 42 year old, known as Miff to his friends and family, lived with his long-term partner, Laura Gunton, in West Runton.

He had been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease as a student at Cromer Academy and when he took himself to hospital last month it was because of what he assumed were problems with the illness.

However, he and his loved ones were devastated to find it was not his chronic illness causing the pain, but a rare and aggressive tumour in his liver, doubling in size every 24 hours.

He died just two days after being admitted to hospital, on April 13.

Older brother Jeremy, 55, who owns a mug company in Sheringham, said doctors did not expect him to die so soon, and were planning to start treatment.

“We didn’t expect to lose our little brother – certainly not yet,” said Mr Stubbs, a father of three.

“I was away at the time but I was texting him. Unfortunately they lost him and the last time I saw him was in Morrison’s a few weeks before.”

He said the family were all still in a state of shock. “Thankfully my parents are not alive because it would have been devastating for them.”

Mr Stubbs said his brother had gone for a regular checkup just three weeks before his death, where there was no sign of the cancer.

But just weeks later he was suffering pain in his stomach. Mr Stubbs, of Priory Road, added: “He didn’t ever complain, he just got on with it. He was a really happy-go-lucky chap. We called him Miff because it’s what he used to call himself when he was little. He couldn’t pronounce Timothy.”

Now his family and friends are coming to terms with his death.

“His partner is devastated,” he addded.

A funeral service was held in West Runton, before a convoy of motorcycles followed his hearse to St Faith’s Crematorium.

“Neither of them had any chance to prepare,” said Mr Cockaday. “I always thought if you got cancer 
you would have a few weeks, or months or even years. It happens that two friends of mine didn’t get the chance.”

Now Mr Cockaday, a partner at Williams of West Runton, has joined forces with his niece’s boyfriend, Mr Haylett, a gas engineer from Badersfield.

Training has seen the duo cycle miles across Norfolk’s countryside, preparing for their eight-hour ride on June 14.

Mr Cockaday added: “We entered it before we realised how difficult it would be.

“The terrain will be the hardest challenge. You don’t get any rest.

“One of the hills goes up for two miles. It’s at mile 41 which will be really hard.

“We have to keep going to keep the momentum up.”

The varied route will take them through forests and up and down rolling hills with steep climbs and long descents.

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