Friend’s cancer mission in memory of Jess

PUBLISHED: 15:43 11 June 2013 | UPDATED: 12:11 12 June 2013

Jamie De Bootman is to visit every high school in Norfolk to raise awareness of Ewing Sarcoma after his friend Jessika Mae Prior died from the disease earlier this year. Picture: Ian Burt

Jamie De Bootman is to visit every high school in Norfolk to raise awareness of Ewing Sarcoma after his friend Jessika Mae Prior died from the disease earlier this year. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2013

They were the best of mates who posed for pictures at their school prom and visited each other’s houses in their spare time – but not even their unbreakable friendship could save Jessika Mae Prior from a rare form of cancer.

Now, to stop others falling victim to the same fate, Jamie De Bootman is to tour all of Norfolk’s 71 high schools in memory of his friend to urge students to be aware of the risks of teenage cancer and where they can go for help.

Although the 18-year-old, from King’s Lynn, does not want to frighten pupils, he wants to make sure they know the symptoms to watch out for and urge them to visit a doctor for help if they have concerns.

Jess, as she was known to her friends, a popular former Springwood High School pupil, of North Lynn, was just one of 30 young people per year who are found to have Ewing’s sarcoma, a bone cancer which affects 16 to 24-year-olds, after she complained of pains in her knee.

Because she was a keen sports player, doctors thought she simply had a sports injury and would soon recover.

It took medics a year before they diagnosed her with cancer. She died on March 18 this year.

“GPs will probably come across one case of Ewing’s sarcoma in their entire career,” said Jess’s mother, Sharon Cleaver. “That’s why it is so difficult to pick up.”

Jamie who studied with Jess at Springwood High School, in King’s Lynn, said: “Although teenage cancer is rare, it still affects more than 2,000 people people every year in the UK.

“Our aim isn’t to scare people and make them think they they need to rush to see the doctor immediately but is just to let them know what they need to look out for.”

Jamie, of Tasburgh Close, Lynn, will start his county-wide schools tour in September. Naturally Springwood, as his and Jess’s former school, will be his starting point.

He and a representative from the Teenage Cancer Trust, which supported Jess during her visits to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge, for treatment, will give an hour-long presentation – one half about the symptoms and the other on the emotional effects on friends and family.

Jamie said he hopes to describe the “complete shock” he felt at Jess’s death and show youngsters the crucial role they can play in supporting someone who has cancer.

“When I was told she had died, it was completely unexpected,” he said. “No one was expecting it. It happens on the telly. It doesn’t happen to you. It really upset me because I felt like I wasn’t there for her when she was most in need of someone, so I got in contact with Jess’s mum after the funeral and said that I really wanted to do something.

“The main thing is to raise awareness because no one knows about it, so I want to visit every Year 10 pupil telling them what to look for.”

He also plans to produce a video to show to students and has had Teenage Cancer Trust signs put on the side of his car to explain what he is doing.

Miss Cleaver added that Jess would be “made up” to see what Jamie was doing, adding: “They were very good friends at school.”

“She had a very positive attitude to life from a very young age, not just when she was diagnosed with cancer. She always just got on with stuff and she continued to be a very positive person.”

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