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Family give back to cancer foundation

By Emily Norman

[email protected]

Before losing his year-long cancer battle, Featherston fire volunteer James Coombes was the unlikely recipient of ongoing support from the Child Cancer Foundation.

Standing at 6 foot 3 and weighing 110kg, his family didn’t even think the then 20-year-old would fit the organisation’s criteria for help, but he did.

James was diagnosed with a rare renal cancer that spread to his liver near the end of 2010 and died in November 2011.

But throughout his cancer battle, the foundation was there supporting him and his family until the end.

James’ mother Jayne recalled the night her son was taken to the Wairarapa Hospital emergency department – he was acutely unwell.

“But it was a fire brigade training night – and if you don’t turn up to the training, you don’t get credit, and so we could only bring him to ED after he’d gone to let the chief know,” Mrs Coombes said.

“That was when our lives really turned upside down because when he came to ED, it became really clear quite quickly that there was something seriously wrong.

“You know it’s never good when you turn up to a meeting with a doctor and they bring a social worker in first.”

James started his chemotherapy on Christmas day 2010.

James Coombes, right, and his sister Lucy before he was diagnosed with cancer. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
James Coombes, right, and his sister Lucy before he was diagnosed with cancer. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

His family knew his condition was likely terminal.

“I remember one lady involved with Child Cancer spent a lot of time getting a book ready for James that he could leave for us,” Mrs Coombes said.

“We knew pretty close to the start of the process that he didn’t have a lot of time, so he wanted to leave something for his sister and her future children so that they could get to know him.

“Sadly, he didn’t get to fill that in.”

Mrs Coombes said foundation had also made sure the family had parking tickets for the hospital, coffee and lunch vouchers, and “someone to talk to”.

“For us, it was just the support we got from them throughout that year,” she said.

“We were living in Featherston and being treated in Wellington — initially Palmerston North though.

“It was good to have somewhere you could call in if you needed anything.”

James also took part in the Child Cancer Beads of Courage programme run by the foundation.

“Every time there’s a treatment you earn a bead,” Mrs Coombes said.

Cancer victim James Coombes' sister Lucy and mother Jayne out collecting for the Child Cancer Foundation last year. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
Cancer victim James Coombes’ sister Lucy and mother Jayne out collecting for the Child Cancer Foundation last year. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

“He spent some time threading them for different friends and people to have as a keepsake.”

The foundation’s annual appeal month is March and, on March 17 and 18, volunteers will be supporting the organisation’s street collection, including the Coombes family.

“Giving back is my way of thanking them for their support,” Mrs Coombes said.

“I always knew that Child Cancer Foundation was out there, but you never think it’s going to be you and your family that will be impacted.”

Mrs Coombes will be collecting at Fresh Choice in Greytown.

She is encouraging other Wairarapa people to enrol online to be collectors for the appeal.

People interested in volunteering as collectors can register at www.childcancer.org.nz or call 0800 424 453 to be connected with their local organiser.


  1. Respect to you Pete, Jayne and Lucy, James would be so proud of your ongoing involvement. Hard times but strength of family.. respect x

  2. Cancer is a terrible evil b*****d of a thing that steals from us the things most dear and precious to our hearts, let’s all join together and fight this dreadful disease that attacks us and our loved ones, DEATH TO CANCER !

Comments are closed.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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