Chapel-en-le-Frith mum's cancer support group gets charity status

A woman from Chapel-en-le-Frith who has been helping people with cancer while dealing with a diagnosis herself has received the good news that the organisation she has set up has been granted charity status.

Thursday, 28th July 2022, 6:18 pm
Updated Monday, 1st August 2022, 10:42 am

In just a matter of days Gemma Ellis has got a charity number for The Gem Foundation – Stage 4 Deserves More, but she has also taken on a retail unit in Chapel and received a letter from Boris Johnson praising the good work she has done.

The 39-year-old said: “I don't think it's sunk in yet to be honest. It's all happened so quickly and unexpectedly.

“Being mentioned in parliament and receiving a letter from the Prime Minister, I thought Ant and Dec were about to pop out from somewhere I honestly couldn't believe it was all real.”

Some of the support packs made in Gemma's house.

Becoming a charity was not on her radar she says but was talked into it by her friends.

Now it means she can apply for charity grants, take on premises and staff and expand the good work she is doing to help others.

Previously Gemma, her husband Ben, 33, and their daughters Ruby, 12 and Scarlett 10 have been making packs up in their home to send out to people with secondary breast cancer or sending different packs out to hospitals for those cancer patients who have had emergency admissions.

Gemma said: “When that amazing email with the charity number came through, my friend and I went looking to see what commercial rentals there were and I saw a office and storage space and thought that would be perfect for separating home life and charity work and getting my conservatory back!”

Gemma Ellis and her daughters Ruby and Scarlett

The new unit is based on the first floor of The Old Stocks Building on the Market Place in Chapel and will be selling charity merchandise, handmade products and second hand products such as clothes, toys and books.

She said: “I'm really excited about having my own space as currently my office and storage area are my conservatory so it will be nice to sit around a dining table again.”

Gemma was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer in 2017 and then Stage 4 Breast Cancer in 2018 where the disease had spread to her bones and was treatable but no longer curable.

After being stable for a few years which she says was not expected things unfortunately took a change for the worse and she was diagnosed with two Secondary breast cancer lesions to her brain that needed targeted radiotherapy.

Gemma enjoying a well deserved pint.

She then commenced on a trial which unfortunately was cut short due to her needing brain surgery.

She said: “I had the surgery to remove one of the lesions that had started to grow again a week before Christmas last year and unfortunately got a infection after being discharged in the wound and ended up being rushed to hospital for further surgery on my birthday, which is New Years Day.

"Unfortunately my next set of scans showed I had multiple metastasies in my lungs and cancerous fluid kept building up in lungs and pleural lining and I kept getting rushed into hospital with breathing difficulties to have my lungs drained.

"Until I had a permanent lung drain fitted I managed at home with oxygen which I was on for 24 hours a day but after starting my new treatment I have been off it for the past few weeks and I’m hoping this treatment is working.

Gemma and Ben Ellis

"We will find out mid August when I have the first set of scans since starting the new treatment."

Back in October 2018 Gemma started making Secondary Breast Cancer packs, which contain items in to help with treatment days and side effects of treatment such as tissues, mints, a puzzle book, pen, wish bracelet, face or foot mask, hand cream, hand gel, bath salts, herbal teabags, a notebook, comb, universal charger cable, lip balm, crocheted heart, and a lavender pillow.

Since she started helping others to take her mind of her own treatment she has sent out over 1700 packs across the UK.

She said: “I get some lovely feedback about the packs and how it makes the receiver feel cheered up etc and that makes it all worthwhile. The packs have expanded as the time has gone on and hopefully will continue to do so now we have charity status.”

"As much as I would like to include primary breast cancer patients the sad reality is I wouldn't be able to keep up with the demand. And I also need to remember that I am poorly myself which when things happen like this it's easy to forget when you get wrapped up in it all.”

Her work has caught the attention of Boris Johnson who sent her a personal letter which said: “I recognise following a cancer diagnosis and individual can feel that the news is overwhelming – that the sky once blue has now turned black.

"Your decision to bring some much needed light to others affected by this cruel disease is a testament to your sheer strength of character.”

One new element of the charity status is the Gem Foundation.

Gemma added: “I'm very excited about as I wanted to leave some sort of legacy for the girls and this is it.”

The Gem Foundation which is within Stage 4 Deserves More is solely for Secondary Breast Cancer Research and builds on the £10,000 which has already been donated to The Christie Hospital last year.