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'Charity helped us all after our son's cancer diagnosis'

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: October 15, 2012

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WHEN 18-year-old Gareth Jenkins was diagnosed with aggressive bone cancer, it plunged the whole of his family into a maelstrom of emotion and of worry that swept everything else aside.

As was his habit throughout his life, Gareth took the diagnosis and the treatment in his stride, determined to face it down, but when things got tough Clic Sargent was there for all of them, remembers his dad Clyde.

"The first time we heard of Clic Sergent was when Gareth was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma. They contacted us to send a representative down to help us.

"At the time they didn't have anyone in South Wales so he came all the way from Bristol to talk to Gareth about how they could help."

A no-nonsense rugby player who had an unshakeable "glass half-full" attitude, Gareth had no doubt at the time that he would kick the cancer into touch and be back on the field in no time, so his reaction to the charity's rep, Simon Morgan Jones, wasn't exactly welcoming.

Clyde laughs: "When Simon left the room after that first talk, Gareth said to me, 'Well, he can **** right off for a start."

But over the months Simon proved to be worth his weight in gold.

"He came back and forth from Bristol so many times to be with us at hospital appointments.

"And he helped with those practical things that we just weren't able to think about at the time.

"For instance Gareth couldn't go to college any more, so Simon sorted out the forms we needed for benefits. He helped us practically, and very quickly he and Gareth became really good friends."

Clyde and Gareth's mum Carolyn Hodder lost their son four years ago.

And after Gareth's death the help from Simon continued.

"Simon came to see us after Gareth died and he talked to Carolyn. I didn't really want to talk because I am not so much of a talker.

"But he sent me a letter saying that if I needed him any time, day or night, 24/7, he would be there. And it did really help me to know that."

Since Gareth's death his family and friends have raised thousands for Clic Sergent and Clyde says it does help in a small way to be able to do something positive out of their tragedy.

"We can't help Gareth now, but it is good to know we are helping someone like him, and another family, by supporting Clic Sergent.

Of course, they don't need a charity drive to keep Gareth at the forefront of their minds. And by all accounts his memory burns bright for scores of people.

So many turned up at his funeral they had to pay their respects standing outside the church since it was overloaded with well-wishers.

And the fact that his name and his memory comes up all the time among his mates is a comfort to the family, says Clyde.

"Gareth's Facebook page is still active and I look at it every day. Some weeks nothing goes up and them all of a sudden someone will post something because they have been thinking about him, which is great.

"After he died his friends started getting tattoos with his name, or with something to do with Gareth.

"There must be 10 or 12 of those tattoos now."

As any parent of lads will know, there is a statute of limitations on those tales of what they got up to as teenagers.

Mum and dad only get to hear the full details of their exploits when a fair bit of time has passed. But since Gareth has gone his friends have stated telling them of some of those exploits.

"There is a bit of that going on, yes," says Clyde, because he really was the life and soul.

"He was friends with Ashley Beck, who plays for the Ospreys, and he and Ashley and Johnny Vaughton used to go out together. When they had a few drinks they would go back to Gareth's mum's house for the night and all sleep in the same bed.

"It was just a small bed and it had to carry about 50 stone in weight, so it started collapsing. So I asked Johnny how it worked.

"How did they get any sleep? He said 'I sleep in the middle so when the bed collapses the other two roll in to me and we have a nice little cwtch!"

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