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A beacon of hope
After losing his infant son to cancer and seeing his wife battle the disease, James Chadney proudly lit a beacon of hope to honour both The Queen and those fighting the condition.
He lit the penultimate of 4,000 beacons that were ignited on Monday night to honour Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee.
The Queen herself lit the final flame in London.
And for the resident of Burcot, South Oxfordshire, there was a very personal reason for lighting the beacon on behalf of charity Cancer Research UK.
It was one of four charities chosen to light beacons on the peaks of England’s four highest mountains, including Scafell Pike in the Lake District.
Mr Chadney’s son Luke was diagnosed aged two with neuroblastoma of the jaw-bone, only the eighth known case of its kind in the world. Despite surgery Luke died in March aged four.
During Luke’s treatment his mum, Kate, was also diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma cancer, undergoing four months of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. She is now in remission.
Mr Chadney, 40, who lit the beacon at 10.29pm on Monday, said: “It was very emotional. It was amazing, a phenomenal experience, we were so lucky with the weather.”
The former Cancer Research UK worker looked at a picture taken on his mobile phone of him lighting the beacon and accidentally came across a photograph of his son.
He said: “I wasn’t expecting to see him. I had a few tears when I saw it but it wasn’t a sad experience, it was very uplifting.”
He added: “In the last years, so much has been done to help people like my wife survive. Hopefully it won’t be another 60 years before people like my son can survive.”
Mr Chadney was joined by TV personality Nell McAndrew, Radio 2 DJ Bob Harris OBE, and cancer survivors and scientists at the mountain to light the “Beacon of Hope”.
He said: “It is almost impossible to put into words how hard it was to watch my son suffer and die. So I don’t try to.
“When he relapsed, we knew that it was only a matter of time – months – and we made the most of the time we had left together.”
The couple also have two daughters, Grace, seven and Rose, one.
He said his wife has a 90 per cent chance of survival as her cancer is more common.
He added: “If it wasn’t for Luke’s treatment, we would not have had most of the last two years together, including six months of quality time when he was able to enjoy activities after we knew he had relapsed.”
Since Luke’s death Mr Chadney has given moving talks of his experiences to donors, including one in London which raised £89,000.