Terminally ill Wellington teen will donate her brain to cancer research after raising more than $370,000

By Vita Molyneux

A terminally ill Wellington teenager who has raised more than $370,000 for cancer research will also donate her brain to the scientist fighting for a cure.

Fifteen-year-old Jemima Gazley was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) in February this year. The cancer has an average survival of just nine months post-diagnosis, and on Monday her father Oliver Gazley told the Herald she has been transferred to hospice care as per her wishes.

The transfer to hospice came after Jemima lost consciousness at home on Sunday. Oliver says she was "sporadically" coming to, and speaking briefly - but it was time to turn to end of life care.

In the week before her health took a turn, Jemima worked to raise as much money as possible for cancer research, raising an incredible $373,091.

The Givealittle page closed on Sunday – but so many people wanted to keep funding Jemima's cause, her family reopened the page just hours later.

All of the money will go to DIPG research conducted by Dr Matt Dun, associate professor at the University of Newcastle.

But it's not just money Jemima will donate - Jemima's brain and stem line will also be sent to Dr Dun.

He told the Herald the donation is crucial to his research.

"Without donations from children who are diagnosed with DIPG or passing away from, we cannot continue to do our research. Brain tissue is imperative to try and unlock some of the clues of this most horrific and devastating form of childhood cancer."

His daughter Josie died from DIPG in 2019, aged 4 – and he wants to try to improve outcomes for other children suffering from the aggressive cancer.

He's currently sequencing the stem lines of 100 tumours donated by families of children like Jemima, creating a lab-grown immortal tumour, upon which drugs can be tested for efficacy.

He hopes it will lead not only to the establishment of a treatment but also give children diagnosed with DIPG a chance of survival.

"It's a tragic loss to humanity losing these children to such a young age when they have so much to give - the generation we're losing at the moment are the ones who are going to make the change."

From his conversations with Jemima, Dr Dun says it was easy to tell what an amazing person she is.

"She's a credit to her family, to be able to sympathise with what's going on and focus her last time on this planet starting a conversation about DIPG and using that to promote research - it's just incredible."

Oliver says the legacy Jemima is leaving is awe-inspiring – but still a "bitter pill to swallow".

"This is incredible but the story will finish the same way for us unfortunately as a family, it's completely heartbreaking but beautiful. Who wouldn't want to go leave their body and start a new life somewhere else, knowing what they left behind was this sort of legacy?

"Any normal human would dream of leaving this behind for people to remember them by."


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