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As many of you will know, sadly earlier this year Jessica Gauntley, a Trent pupil lost her battle with brain cancer.
There are 500 children and teenagers in the UK are diagnosed with brain cancer each year. The number is so small that it is easy for governments and the pharmaceutical industry to ignore, which is treatments for brain cancer in young people have not changed for decades. Brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of UK children and young people and are more common in children than meningitis and murder. Brain tumours are the second most common cancer in children after leukemia, yet children with leukemia have a much better chance of long term survival than children with brain cancer
This tragic and sad loss has however formed one positive outcome – The Jessica Hope Foundation. The Foundation has been set up as a tribute to Jessica and to raise money for brain cancer and charities close to the heart of Jessica’s family. The below story was written by Jess’s mum, Dr Karen Gauntley.
“Our Jess was born and raised in Long Eaton. She was a normal 15-year-old girl in her first year of GCSEs at Trent College. She loved hanging out with friends, singing, listening to music, going to concerts, playing netball, skiing and surfing. Jess had the usual teenage preoccupations: homework, friendship worries, boys and everything to do with her appearance but she also had hopes and dreams for the future: completing her education, following a career, falling in love, marrying and having children of her own.
All those dreams came to an end on 27th April 2012 when, after suddenly falling ill with headaches and vomiting, she was admitted to the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham. An MRI the following day showed that Jess had a large tumour deep in her brain. An emergency operation removed some of the tumour and sadly histology showed that it was an Anaplastic Astrocytoma - an aggressive brain cancer.
She struggled through her operations, weeks of radiotherapy and months of chemotherapy with tremendous strength and dignity. Our beautiful, gentle, teenage daughter lost her hair, gained weight, lost all her energy and had to give up sports including her beloved netball.
Despite all of this Jess managed to return to school in September 2012 and attended hospital for chemotherapy infusions every other week. She was always smiling, never complained and still took time to listen to and support her friends. Jess even completed her silver Duke of Edinburgh practice expedition in October even though she had to return to QMC for a further chemotherapy infusion in the middle of it; she went back to the expedition the following day.
Jess completed the autumn term at school but over Christmas 2012 she fell ill and it was discovered that the tumour had grown again and become even more aggressive than before. She had a further major operation in early January this year, at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, but we knew there was no hope of a cure and that it was simply to give us as much time together as possible.
Jess lost her battle and died peacefully at home surrounded by family and loved ones on February 26th this year. Only 10 months after diagnosis.
We filled those 10 months with as much living as possible: Trips to London Theatre-land, Harry Potter World, Musical Concerts, spa and pamper days, holidays in Cornwall with family and CentreParcs with friends, Jess saw Usain Bolt Win gold live at the Olympics and she even managed to go skiing in the French Alps.
Jess leaves behind her dad John, 18-year-old brother Sam, 14-year-old brother Tom and myself.
Her loss is devastating and our hearts are broken but she is our inspiration. This foundation has been set up as a tribute to her grace and bravery. It is Jess's legacy. The foundation's aims are: to raise awareness of brain tumours in young people, to fund research into causes, prevention and treatment of brain cancers in children and young people (they are not necessarily mini versions of the adult cancer) and to help brighten the lives of young brain cancer sufferers and their families.
The charities we are giving to are close to our hearts: HeadSmart: The Children's Brain Tumour Research Centre: the Teenage Cancer Unit planned for QMC and Rainbows Hospice (who kindly cared for Jess in their Quiet Room after her death).
Many thanks for your support”