Hero Derbyshire dad's cancer fight spurs daughter’s fundraising for hospital

A hero dad who is battling cancer has inspired his daughter to raise money for the hospital which is treating him.

By Gay Bolton
Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 3:30 pm
Billie Jenkinson with her dad John Whitehead on her wedding day in 2017.
Billie Jenkinson with her dad John Whitehead on her wedding day in 2017.

John Whitehead, 55, of Carrwood Road, Renishaw, was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in November last year and was only given a few months to live. But the builder/handyman wasn’t defeated.

His daughter Billie Jenkinson said: “He was building my Nan her own place in his garden when he was diagnosed with cancer and he was determined to finish it and he did. He’s still working on his own house now, up on the roof. He’s mentally strong and so determined to beat the cancer because he has so much to live for. He’s my hero."

John is currently waiting for a vital operation at Weston Park Hospital to remove part of his oesophagus where the tumour is.

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Connor Greaves, Kelly Flowers, James Jenkinson, Billie Jenkinson dressed as pirates for the treasure hunt in aid of Weston Park Hospital.

Billie said: "It’s been such an emotional rollercoaster. He’s been in and out of different hospitals during lockdown. He’s had bad days where he’s unable to even get up but he’s never given up. With the cancer he has he finds it difficult to eat and drink so has lost a lot of weight, he had a stent fitted to try and help him but it causes him to be in a lot of pain constantly.

"Luckily we could still see him through lockdown as support bubble with my son being disabled. But it was awful for him not to be able to see other family members and friends not knowing how long he would have left.”

Billie and her husband James, have a four-year-old son Sam, who is autistic, and a two-year-old daughter, Mia.

In the aftermath of her father’s diagnosis, Billie decided to do something positive to keep her mind occupied. During February’s lockdown she raised £3,500 towards research into oesophageal cancer. She said: “I made handmade things with my children, I did live quizzes and games, l did competitions for the children with prizes. Lots of local businesses donated."

Now she’s raising money for Weston Park Hospital through an annual treasure hunt in Renishaw.

Billie, 28, decorated the village and made maps for the first treasure hunt which attracted 21 children and their parents. She said: “I got a few family members and friends to help me. We had a dig for gold sandpit, cake stalls, photo prop, tombola, bubble machine. It was a lovely day and everyone really enjoyed it.”

So far the fundraiser has brought in £1250 with more money to be raised through a raffle, collection and online game up until Father’s Day on June 20.

Billie, of East Street, Renishaw, said: “I will be forever grateful to all the staff at Weston Park Hospital, they gave us hope in the darkest of times, and they really looked after my Dad. We thought my Dad was going to die and they have made it possible for him to have an operation that could save his life.

"A huge thank you to everyone in Renishaw for always supporting me and my family, for being there for us through the toughest of days. To all the local businesses for donating prizes. And all the 21 amazing children and their parents who have helped me in my latest fundraiser.”