ON the day her 17-year-old daughter died of cancer in 1996, Jacquie Roeder vowed to devote herself to helping other young sufferers.
Since then the trust set up in the name of Laura Crane - Jacquie’s daughter - has raised more than £1 million for the fight against teenage cancer and worked tirelessly to increase knowledge of the devastating illness.
Throughout the last 15 years, Jacquie has dedicated herself to raising awareness of cancer in young people, motivated always by the memory of her “bright, bubbly, outgoing and courageous” daughter.
This month, as she stepped down as chairwoman of the trust and handed over the reins to her husband Malcolm, Laura’s stepdad, Jacquie reflected on her achievements - and the inspiration that Laura gave her.
“It was never difficult to keep motivated because I watched what cancer did to my baby and I gained satisfaction from fighting back and doing all I could to prevent similar tragedies in other families,” said Jacquie.
“The wonderful support that Laura’s charity received has constantly encouraged me to keep going and each and every donation has given me a lift.”
Though the medical profession had long been aware of the differences in the way cancer in teenagers progressed compared to adult patients, there was no specific funding available for research aimed at young people until Jacquie took up the challenge.
Laura, a former pupil at Brighouse High School, died just 14 months after being diagnosed with three particularly aggressive and rare types of cancer. So unusual was her condition that doctors did not know how best to treat the cancers - or what the prognosis would be.
Said Jacquie: “Life is tough enough, during the teenage years, without throwing cancer into the equation. Laura endured aggressive treatment, pain and indignity with such courage and won the hearts of a great many people. She never bemoaned her fate, always caring more for those around her and sad about the pain they were feeling for her.
“In the hope of protecting other young people and their families from the tragedy we had known, I decided, the day Laura died, to pick up the fight where she left off.”
As founder of the Laura Crane Trust, Jacquie’s aim was to raise about £10,000 a year to fund research into cancer in teenagers and young adults. In just over a decade she had raised more than £1 million.
Jacquie is stepping down as figurehead for the charity confident it is in good shape, with public awareness of teenage cancers growing and important research projects continuing.
The charity has won celebrity support from Jack Dee, Catherine Tate and Huddersfield Giants, contributed £28,000 towards a teenage cancer unit at Weston Park hospital in Sheffield and is now creating ChatWorld to enable young sufferers to communicate with each other and offer mutual support.
“Our charity is all about young people and thanks in no small part to our efforts this is a generation that will take their knowledge of cancer in young people with them into adulthood,” said Jacquie.
Malcolm admits that Jacquie will be a hard act to follow but is looking forward to his new role as chairman of the trustees.
“Without Jacquie’s dedication and selfless commitment to improving the lives of young cancer patients the trust would not be in the strong position that it is now. We can’t thank her enough for everything she has done.”