Mother who delayed cancer treatment to deliver baby daughter dies at 29 after disease spreads to her brain, spine
Gemma Nutall beat cancer twice and lived happily with her daughter for over two years but had a relapse earlier this year which ultimately took her life
The woman who decided to wait for the birth of her daughter before starting medical treatment for cancer has died.
According to a GoFundMe page set up by family, 29-year-old Gemma Nuttall of the United Kingdom was 16 weeks pregnant when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer back in 2014. Doctors had offered Nuttall the option to terminate the pregnancy in order to remove the tumor. However, she chose to delay both the surgery as well as chemotherapy until after the child was born.
Owing to zero medical intervention, Nuttall's tumor grew as the pregnancy progressed. At 36 weeks gestation in March 2014, the tumor had grown so large that doctors decided to cut out the tumor and deliver her daughter at the same time, People reports. “They kept her awake so she could see her own beautiful but small daughter Penelope arrive into the world,” her mother, Helen Sproates, wrote on the donation page, “Only to be put to sleep and have the cancer removed.”
While Penelope, who was born prematurely, spent the following few weeks recuperating in the intensive care unit, Nuttall underwent both chemotherapy and radiation. According to the fundraising page, another scan revealed she had developed cervical cancer. The surgery was successful after doctors were able to remove the tumor, and Nuttall remained healthy for the next two years. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with both cancer of the brain and lung in April 2016.
The latest diagnosis prompted her family to start their crowdfunding campaign so that Nuttall could try experimental cancer treatment in a bid to save her life. Actress Kate Winslet, whose own mother was diagnosed with cancer, was touched by Nuttall's story and offered to help by providing funds.
She wrote on the campaign's page: “Let’s truly do our best to keep her alive for her three-year-old daughter Penelope who loves and needs her Mummy so much. We might be able to save her life with these desperately needed funds for this essential treatment. So spread the word out there! Let’s all tell as many people as we know, and please keep the words of support coming and the incredibly generous donations coming.”
Winslet, 43, got her Titanic co-star Leonardo DiCaprio on board and had a creative idea — the duo would auction three dinners with "Jack and Rose" to raise enough money for the treatment. The auction went on to raise $1.35 million in early 2018, with the donations split between the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and the rest towards Nuttall’s efforts.
Earlier this year, scans showed that the embattled mother was cancer-free after undergoing immunotherapy. However, in mid-2018, she was once again admitted to a hospital after doctors discovered the cancer had progressed to her spine. In another two months, it had once again reached her brain and lungs.
On October 14, Sproates announced her daughter's demise. “It is with an utterly broken heart that I have to tell you all that my beautiful warrior lost her battle early this morning,” she wrote on the GoFundMe page. “We fought so hard but we just couldn’t do it anymore — I am one very proud but devastated mum right now — Sleep tight Gemma — My world will never be the same again.”
The family will continue to honor Nuttall's legacy through the Gemma Rose Foundation, with the "Rose" being a tribute to Winslet's character in Titanic, the Lancashire Telegraph reports. According to the Rossendale Free Press, Winslet released a statement, saying: “My heart is solely with Helen, Penelope and all of the family at this tragically sad time. Gemma was such a beacon of strength and fought this battle so incredibly hard, with grace and dignity throughout. My heart breaks for her mum Helen and her daughter Penelope. They have lost a wonderful mother and daughter.”