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Bramerton man loses brave breast cancer fight

PUBLISHED: 07:38 20 April 2011 | UPDATED: 14:25 20 April 2011

Jason Leech

Jason Leech

copyright of Archant © 2010 01603 772434

The heartbroken wife of a man who died from breast cancer has today hailed him as "a tower of strength to everyone" and "an inspiration".

Jason Leech, 44, lost his brave fight against breast cancer at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital seven years after he was diagnosed with the disease. He died on Wednesday evening, with his wife Rachel by his side.

Mr Leech, formerly of Aylesbury Close, New Catton, had one of his breasts removed after the small lumps under his arms and bigger lump under his nipple were diagnosed as breast cancer in 2004.

He endured chemotherapy and radiotherapy following the discovery and appeared to be on the mend, but last year was given the devastating news it had returned, not only to his breast area, but to other parts of the body, including his lung, liver bones and neck.

But despite the severity of his illness, the former demolition worker for Woodbridge-based company CDC Demolition bravely spoke out about the disease in a bid to raise awareness about cancer and help others.

Mr Leech also helped raise more than £6,000 for the charity Breast Cancer Campaign by agreeing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro - Africa’s highest peak - in October last year, although his illness meant his wife had to take on the challenge instead.

Mrs Leech, 37, who celebrated her first wedding anniversary on her return from her African adventure, said: “I’ve never met such an amazing person as he was. I think God broke the mould when they made him - he was just a tower of strength to everyone.

“He was an inspiration in terms of how he dealt with it and how he made other people deal with it. He made it easier for them. He’s definitely going to be missed. His legacy will go on and he will go on to help others in death as he did in life.”

Mrs Leech, a manager at the Hog In Armour pub on Charing Cross, Norwich, said the couple had enjoyed a “really lovely Christmas” together following a positive check up at the end of last year.

But earlier this year Mr Leech suffered a seizure at home and was admitted to hospital where he several days and was given several drugs to try and improve his condition.

But after feeling unwell again Mr Leech returned to hospital where an X-ray revealed the true extent of the spread of the disease.

Mrs Leech said: “He had quite a bit of chemotherapy and there was nothing else to do so they had to stop the treatment. We knew that it was going to come, but it came sooner rather than later. We just didn’t have enough time together.”

Although both crushed by the news the couple helped each other get through the dark days and weeks that followed - spending as much time in each other’s company as they possibly could.

When Mr Leech, who is originally from Halesworth, was admitted to hospital for the last time two weeks ago, Mrs Leech was able to stay with him on the Mulbarton ward where he was being cared for.

Mrs Leech, who met her husband six years ago at the Blueberry pub in Norwich and lived with him at Bramerton, said: “They let me stay at the hospital - I didn’t want to miss a second. The nurses were brilliant. I can’t thank the doctors and nurses at the hospital enough with how they made him feel. He was definitely a character there.”

One of Mr Leech’s wishes was that donations at his funeral go towards supporting their friend Nichola<corr>Burr who will be cycling 400km across Kenya in October to raise money for cancer victims as part of the Action for Charity’s Women V Cancer challenge.

Mrs Leech has thanked her family, friends and work for all the help she has received since Mr Leech’s death, including Pam South, landlady of the Brickmakers pub on Sprowston Road.

Mrs South, who is a close friend of the couple, held a 12-hour bandathon at the pub in aid of Breast Cancer Campaign last April - attended by the couple - and will be holding a similar event on Easter Monday between noon and midnight in memory of Mr Leech.

She said: “He fought very, very hard and raised an awful lot of money. It’s very sad that he lost the fight, but he gave it his best shot and he fought more than anyone. He had a great determination and a great outlook, with warning everyone else, I don’t know if I could’ve been that brave.”

A funeral service and celebration of Mr Leech’s life will take place at St Faith’s Crematorium at 12.30pm on Thursday, May 5 with the wake afterwards at the Blueberry pub. People are urged to wear bright colours.

The bandathon at the Brickmakers pub, which involves 10 bands, takes place between noon and midnight on Monday, April 25. Tickets are £2 with all proceeds going to charity.

Would you like to pay tribute to a loved one after a battle with cancer? Call reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

Male breast cancer facts

In men, breast cancer is very rare. There are about 300 - 350 men diagnosed each year in the UK, compared with around 45,700 cases of breast cancer in women.

Around 90 men a year die from breast cancer

As with women, the single biggest risk factor for male breast cancer is increasing age. Most cases are diagnosed in men between the ages of 60 and 70.

Other risk factors are high oestrogen levels, exposure to radiation, a family history of cancer, or a recognised breast cancer gene in the family, and a rare genetic condition called Klinefelter’s syndrome.

For more information log onto www.breastcancercampaign.org

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