At the top of Mount Kilimanjaro Mike Parmenter and his ne phew Jake quickly put on specially made purple t-shirts and posed for a long awaited photograph.

On the front of the shirts were images of Mike’s family - his wife Suzanne, their one-year-old son Oliver and daughter Isobel.

Sadly a photograph of all of them together is something which will never happen as little Izzy died three years ago aged just 22 months from a rare form of cancer.

But at that point the couple both realised they wanted something positive to come out of their devastating loss, leading them to keep her memory and spirit alive by setting up a fundraising trust in her name.

Three years after losing Izzy, the loss is no easier but doing something positive and taking on new challenges is something they are both determined to do.

Which is how last month Mike and Jake found themselves tackling the massive Tanzanian mountain during a specially organised ten day trek they financed themselves.

Mike says he wanted to do something completely out of his comfort zone which would capture people’s imaginations and support for the cause.

“It is the world’s tallest free-standing mountain so I felt it was a real challenge for someone like me who wasn’t particularly fit.

“And I have always admired people who can push themselves to that level really.

“I wanted to raise awareness as much as I wanted to raise funds for what Izzy went through and her condition and if that saves just one child’s life then it would have been worth it. That’s one family that will not have to go through what we have.”

The family, who live just outside Colchester, had only recently celebrated Isobel’s first birthday when she began to show signs of being unwell.

It began as a heavy cold but she was often sick and went off her favourite foods. Despite numerous trips to the GP a diagnosis was not forthcoming and it was initially thought Isobel may have dairy intolerances.

By now it was early 2014 and Isobel had became so unwell Suzanne and Mike took her to A&E and insisted she be admitted. Over the next five and a half months the little girl underwent a host of biopsies, scans, ultra sounds, MRI scans and blood and platelet transfusions before, nine months after first becoming unwell, she was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis.

Suzanne has said nursing staff said Izzy was one of the bravest children they had ever looked after and she did not really cry or complain through often painful tests and treatments.

“All she had was her favourite blanket, which she called Sniffy, and us holding her hand.The nursing and medical staff could not believe it as they had never seen a child who was so brave, even at just 18 months old, but it must have been the bond was so strong between us that if I was telling her it was alright then she believed it was,” explains Suzanne.

Isobel eventually had to be fed through a tube and her mouth and throat became so sore speaking was almost impossible.

Despite using two different types of chemotherapy Isobel did not improve and the UK’s leading expert in the disease was consulted and suggested trying salvage chemotherapy. But Izzy contracted an infection and died with her mummy and daddy beside her in September 2014.

Their fundraising began in 2015 with a cake sale for the charity HistioUK and then in December of that year they set up Isobel’s Memorial Fund as part of the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group and funds quickly rose to around £15,000.

Mike and Jake financed the trip themselves which made it important to them to raise more than the £2,500 it cost. “I could have just put them money in without doing the trek if that had been the case but Izzy’s story has touched so many and we have had amazing support and messages from people,” says Mike who trained on a daily basis for months in preparation for the challenge.

The amount they raised has already reached £5,000 with donations still possible. Mike explains everyone in the 26-strong group they climbed with had their own very personal reason for being there.

“We all bonded very quickly and shared our stories and it was very moving. When we reached the summit we put on the long-sleeved t-shirts I had had made. The painful things is we will never have a photograph of Suzanne and myself and our two children together but I wanted to stand on that mountain with both of my children together and that was possible by having those photos printed on there.

“The photograph of Izzy was taken on one of the last days we all went out while she was well enough. She was so determined to get on that swing, even though it actually made her worse afterwards. That determination and fighting spirit she had made it possible for me to keep going.

“I wasn’t the only one shedding a tear at that moment, it was very emotional,” says Mike. As promised, he also had a small, purple elephant - Izzy’s favourite animal, in her favourite colour with him.

It was the end of a gruelling journey which had taken them across treacherous terrain where they risked serious injury or worse at times.

The final ascent was completed in darkness, meaning they arrived in time for sunrise and a spectacular view. But Mike, as were others, was beginning to suffer the side effects of altitude sickness.

“I had a couple of bleeds on my retinas, which can be an extreme reaction. I noticed as I was approaching the top, I could not make out the full facial details of people coming the other way.

“You have a doctor with you all the time though and he just ushered me to the front so I could have my pictures taken and then made sure I could get back down to lower ground. It was a bit strange but it got better as soon as we started to go down,” says Mike. The ascent of the mountain takes the walkers around it so that it is gradual and gets them used to the altitude, while the descent is quicker and takes around a day.

“We all said we wanted to have a hot shower and a cold beer as soon as we got off the mountain.

“It was extremely dusty up there from the volcanic dust, you cannot explain how bad that is, it just gets everywhere.

“And it was very cold at night too. It is like a martian landscape up there.” Having had some much needed time to rest and re-cooperate, Mike is already planning his next challenges.

He will raise funds for the Make-a-Wish foundation later this year by doing the London Landmarks half marathon and then in April 2018 will tackle his first London Marathon, for Izzy’s Memorial Fund, part of the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group. Mike says: “Make-a-Wish were in touch with us as they were trying to arrange for her to meet Mr Tumble from Cbeebies but sadly there was not enough time so I wanted to do something for them.”

* You can still donate to the fund at