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A teenager has given her brain and life savings to a cancer researcher after she died in hope he can find a cure for the disease that also claimed his young daughter.
Jemima Winter Belle Gazley, 15, from Wellington, was rushed to hospital in February after suffering from a sudden headache and vomiting.
Days later she was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG – a fatal tumour in the brain stem – and told she had nine to 12 months left to live.
As the New Zealand teenager battled to prolong her life, she met experts from around the world – including Australian Dr Matt Dun – who has worked tirelessly to find a cure after losing his four-year-old daughter Josie to the same disease in 2019.
Jemima Winter Belle Gazley, 15, has donated her life savings and brain to cancer research after dying from diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma
The Wellington teenager was diagnosed with the fatal brain cancer in February after suffering from a sudden headache and vomiting
In the last two weeks of Jemima’s life, she had one wish – to raise money for Dr Dun’s ongoing research to ‘make this cancer history’.
‘Hey people, this is my life savings let’s hope with my money and yours Matt Dun can find a cure for this horrible disease,’ her final post in her GiveALittle page reads.
When she died on October 12, she donated $5382 of her own money, more than $700,000 from fundraising efforts, and her brain tumour and its surrounding tissue.
Her brain tissue arrived at Dr Dun’s laboratory at the Hunter Medical Research Institute, in Newcastle, days later, where he will be able to keep the tumour alive and grow it.
Jemima spent her final days rallying to raise money for Dr Matt Dun (pictured) to continue his research to find a cure for the deadly disease
Dr Dun has been fighting to find a cure after losing his four-year-old daughter Josie to DIPG in 2019 (pictured together)
Unlike other tumours which are solid, DIPG grows like a spider web, making it inoperable, with researchers yet to determine the reason for its unusual form.
‘What Matt is trying to achieve and we can find something from it we may save the lives of many more,’ Jemima’s father Oliver Gazley told the Daily Telegraph.
Dr Matt Dun said research into paediatric brain cancer has been limited and Jemima’s gift will go a long way in helping find a cure.
‘The brain is really important because it gives us another living avatar, another model but this model, when she passed away, the tumour had spread the NZ team could take tumour from different parts of the brain and get it to us still living,’ he said.
‘This is all her doing, we have been talking throughout her journey. She wanted to do this, it’s just really amazing, incredible young girl.’
WHAT IS DIFFUSE INTRINSIC PONTINE GLIOMA? (DIPG)
Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) is a brain tumour that is highly aggressive and difficult to treat
It is the most aggressive of all childhood cancers, and usually occurs between the ages of 4-11
It grows in a part of the brainstem called the pons, which controls most vital bodily functions such as breathing, blood pressure, sleeping, bladder control and balance
Around 20 children each year, on average, are diagnosed with DIPG in Australia
The average survival rate from diagnosis is around nine to 12 months
Almost all children present with a short history of symptoms and experience rapid tumour progression
Due to their location, the tumours cannot be surgically removed and do not respond to chemotherapy, but their growth can be slowed with radiotherapy
Source: Children’s Cancer Institute