A mother with stage four breast cancer has created a charity that provides support packs for others with the illness, filled with items she has turned to during chemotherapy.
Gemma Ellis, 38, from High Peak, Derbyshire, set up the non-profit Stage 4 Deserves More in October 2018 with her daughters Ruby, 11, and Scarlett, nine.
The family send support packs to people in the UK with stage four breast cancer. These include items Mrs Ellis has found helpful and a booklet with access to support groups and helplines and advice on topics such as wigs and headwear, with adapted versions for men.
Many of the items chosen were based on Mrs Ellis’ experience with cancer and chemotherapy, such as mints “because you get a horrible taste in your mouth” and a notebook “to write down your questions and feelings”.
Speaking to the PA news agency during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Mrs Ellis said: “When I was very first diagnosed with primary, there was a heck of a lot of support. But then when I was secondary, there was nothing.”
Cancer that starts in the breast is called primary breast cancer, while secondary cancer occurs when growths that originated in the breast spread to other parts of the body.
Mrs Ellis was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in February 2017, and given a prognosis of between 18 months to three years, with the cancer spreading to her bones and progressing to stage four around May 2018.
In the past year, the cancer has spread to her brain, lungs and further bones, but she is currently stable and on a trial.
When that trial fails, which “it will at some point”, Mrs Ellis says she will have “one more line of treatment and then that’s it”.
“That’s kind of a frightening thought,” she said,
“I obviously have really horrific days where I just cry and I look at pictures of my kids on the wall and think, ‘Oh my God, I’m not going to see them get married’.
“I’ve had five really quite good years. I’ve packed so much into those years with my kids. People think stage four is the end and it will be at some point, but it’s not.”
Mrs Ellis said Scarlett helps her to put the support packs together for her, while Ruby “loves raising money” for the cause, recently raising £2,400 by taking on the longest zipwire in Wales.
Mrs Ellis also runs a Facebook support group, which has around 800 members, and organises free weekly raffles.
She said she has received support from her community and people who have been buying items on Stage 4 Deserves More’s Amazon wish-list, which has allowed the non-profit to branch out into supporting research projects.
In July, she raised £10,000 for a secondary breast cancer project at Manchester University, and she is looking into raising the same amount for the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in Liverpool before the end of the year.
“I want to try and make a difference and it’s not going to make a difference to me,” Mrs Ellis added.
“But in generations to come… I want to think that there will be so much more.”
More information about Stage 4 Deserves More can be found at: linktr.ee/Stage4DeservesMore