Mom Who Delayed Cancer Treatment to Deliver Her Daughter Dies at 29

Gemma Nuttall's story captured the heart of Kate Winslet, who helped her pay for treatment

Photo: GoFundMe

A woman who once decided to decline medical treatment for cancer while she was pregnant with her daughter, has died.

Gemma Nuttall, 29, of the United Kingdom, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2014 when she was 16 weeks pregnant, according to a GoFundMe set up by her mother, Helen Sproates. While doctors offered Nuttall the option to terminate the pregnancy in order to remove the tumor, she chose to decline surgery and delay chemotherapy until after she gave birth.

As the pregnancy progressed, so did Nuttall’s tumor, which grew so large that at 36 weeks gestation in March 2014, it was decided doctors would cut out the tumor and perform a caesarean section to deliver her daughter, Penelope, all at once, according to the GoFundMe.

“They kept her awake so she could see her own beautiful but small, daughter, Penelope, arrive into the world,” wrote Sproates on the donation page, “Only to be put to sleep and have the cancer removed.”

As Penelope spent the next few weeks recovering in the intensive care unit, Nuttall underwent chemotherapy and radiation. Another scan revealed she had developed cervical cancer, according to the page. Doctors were able to remove the tumor, and Nuttall remained cancer-free for the next two years until April 2016, when she was diagnosed with both cancer of the brain and lung.

'This Morning' TV show, London, UK - 05 Feb 2018
S Meddle/ITV/REX/Shutterstock

With this latest diagnosis, the family started their GoFundMe campaign to enter Nuttall in an experimental cancer treatment to save her life, and actress Kate Winslet stepped in to help provide funds.

“Let’s truly do our best to keep her alive for her 3-year-old daughter Penelope, who loves and needs her Mummy so much,” wrote Winslet — whose own mother was diagnosed with cancer — in a message that was included on the campaign’s page. “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 then recruited Titanic costar Leonardo DiCaprio to help raise money for the cause by auctioning three dinners with “Jack and Rose,” which went on to raise $1.35 million in early 2018 (the donations were split between the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and Nuttall’s efforts).

While scans earlier this year showed Nuttall was cancer-free after undergoing immunotherapy, she was admitted to a hospital in mid-2018 and doctors discovered the cancer had progressed to her spine. Two months later, it would spread — once again — to her brain and lungs.

Sproates announced her daughter’s death on October 14.

“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.”

Nuttall leaves behind Penelope, who is now 4.

According to the Lancashire Telegraph, the family will continue to honor Nuttall’s legacy through the Gemma Rose Foundation — the “Rose” in tribute to Winslet’s character in Titanic.

“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,” Winslet said in a statement, according to the Rossendale Free Press.

“My heart breaks for her mum Helen and her daughter Penelope. They have lost a wonderful mother and daughter.”

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