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Determination to finish, for Graeme's sake, got me through the last hour; Climb pays tribute to brave son.

Byline: By MIKE BLACKBURN

A FATHER and daughter made an emotional trip to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and scatter the ashes of a son and brother who lost his brave fight against cancer.

Keen explorer Graeme Turner's last adventure had been an abortive attempt to conquer the African mountain in 2004, to raise money for the charity Mind.

At the time he put the headaches and exhaustion which prevented him from reaching the 19,341ft summit down to altitude sickness.

But within a few months he had been diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour which a series of treatments failed to halt. Graeme died in October 2006, aged just 28.

Now, his father and sister, Keith and Rachel, from Stockton, have been supported by an eight-strong team of friends, with help from North-east businesses, to make their own poignant trip to Kilimanjaro.

And in the process, they pushed their fundraising for brain tumour research beyond the pounds 10,000 mark.

As reported, Team Graeme was established not long after his diagnosis to raise funds for research and in February 2007, linked with the Samantha Dickson Brain Tumour Trust (SDBTT), the largest group funding brain tumour research in the UK.

Just hours after returning from Tanzania, Rachel, 27, a solicitor with Dickinson Dees in Newcastle, said: "It was an emotionally and physically challenging trip and we'd like to thank everyone who helped us to make it.

"Although we had a few problems along the way, nine of the 10-strong team made it to the top in two groups. Dad and I seemed to get stronger as we approached the top, knowing we were literally following in Graeme's footsteps.

"When we scattered some of Graeme's ashes at the summit I think for dad it was a great relief, an outlet for the pain of the last few years."

Keith, a 59-year-old industrial chemist, said: "Although I'd done a fair bit of training in preparation it was an incredibly tough challenge. It was really only complete determination to finish, for Graeme's sake, that got me through the last hour."

It took Team Graeme a week to complete the adventure, trekking for five days and then setting off at midnight to complete an 11 hour ascent and partial descent, before completing the trip with a further two long days walking back to base camp.

Among the most welcome donations were the thermal jackets supplied by Montane and funded by telecommunications provider Avoco.

Mandy Oswell, a director of Avoco and cousin of Graeme, said: "It was a tremendous effort by them all and we're very proud of them.

"We wanted to do something to help and when they described the freezing conditions they'd be climbing in we agreed some serious mountainwear was the best option. They called us from the top to say they'd made it and that the kit had proved extremely useful."

Graeme attended Grangefield School and Stockton Sixth Form College before graduating from Newcastle University. In 2003 he joined the civil service.

He loved sport, captaining Stockton Hockey Club's fourth team and playing five-a-side football every week. Two annual awards have been donated by his family. The Stockton Hockey Club Graeme Turner Memorial Award is presented for special service in promoting the younger players, while Stockton Sixth Form College also gives a hockey award.

To find out more about Team Graeme or make a donation visit www.teamgraeme.org.uk

CAPTION(S):

EMOTIONAL: Keith and Rachel Turner on the climb, left, and with a globe, above; BRAIN TUMOUR: Graeme Turner, left, who died aged 28 in 2006; BRAVE BATTLE: How we previously reported Graeme's fight against cancer, left
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Oct 21, 2008
Words:605
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