By Andy Hirst
When she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer Ella Dawson realised young patients need far more than just medical care.
The 24-year-old from Slaithwaite was a big believer in creating a feeling of wellbeing no matter what trauma people are facing in their lives.
This wellbeing ranges from healthy eating, exercise and movement, emotional support, relaxation techniques such as yoga through to creativity and Ella, who had graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in fine art, created an impressive portfolio of work even while she was ill.
Sadly, Ella lost her battle with cancer on July 11 last year but her spirit and philosophy on life lives on with a charity called the Ella Dawson Foundation set up by her mum, Jane, dad Kevin, sister Tasha who is studying to be a cancer and exercise practitioner, and Ella’s partner Connor Gamble who she met at university.
Jane said: “Ella always had an infectious love of life. She was a ray of light, a truly beautiful person inside and out with an incredible energy and wisdom even as a young child.
“When Ella was diagnosed with leukaemia she was determined never to be defined by cancer and despite a gruelling treatment regime she just continued to live life as she had done before cancer with purpose, positivity and gratitude. She had an incredible capacity to live in the present and to find positivity, joy, meaning and purpose in every single day.
“Through the immense knowledge she gained about wellbeing over the past few years, Ella was determined to create a blueprint to help other young adults in a similar situation to her.
“She told us ‘I want to show that all is not lost when you are a young person with cancer and I just want to put something out there to help others.’
“And while we are beyond heartbroken and miss Ella so, so much, Ella’s energy, passion and desire to help others lives on through us and through the ethos and ambition of her legacy, the Ella Dawson Foundation.”
The charity has several upcoming fundraising events and people can also buy products featuring Ella’s work from the website with the money going to the foundation. Her artwork has been transformed into aromatherapy candles, notebooks, greeting cards and prints. Tasha has also produced a mindfulness journal which helps people to cope using skills ranging from goal-setting to breathing techniques.
In the toughest days of her illness Ella felt that physical and psychological health were such a powerful force for good she set up a wellbeing blog to give advice on nutrition, exercise and remaining positive during treatment. She worked with blood cancer charities and even set up her own art studio in Huddersfield.
Jane said: “Ella continued to develop her extensive knowledge of physical and mental health, wellbeing and self-healing which inevitably increased her quality of life, mental strength and appreciation of life. We are so proud of the incredible inspirational person she was and everything she achieved. We now want to carry this on with the charity.”
The Foundation’s aim is to provide this kind of holistic support for all cancer patients aged 18 to 30 to help them with their psychological, nutritional and physical needs.
The charity’s website (https://elladawsonfoundation.org.uk/) has lots more information about the services the charity offers. The ultimate aim is to set up its own specialist centre.
Former Greenhead College student Ella was away travelling in Colombia in August 2019 shortly after graduating when she was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of blood cancer called Ph+ ALL.
Once she returned home she was under constant treatment including more than 70 chemotherapy infusions, six months of immunotherapy, several rounds of radiotherapy followed by a gruelling stem cell transplant in October 2020.
The cancer kept returning and Ella’s final hope was to go on a clinical trial in the USA in June 2021 but doctors said she was too ill to travel on the morning of the flight and she passed away less than a month later.
The family’s commitment to raising money for the charity is awe-inspiring.
Family and friends are doing the 246-mile London to Paris bike ride from July 11-14 while Jane, Kevin, Tasha’s partner Lewis Peters from Kirkburton and Connor are all doing a 75-mile trek to the Everest base camp from November 10-27. People are more than welcome to join them for both events.
Jane said: “We’d love to take Huddersfield to the base camp so delighted if any members of our wonderful community would like to join us.”
Research shows that psychological and physical interventions can provide significant benefits after a cancer diagnosis.
To provide vital emotional support for young adults with cancer, the foundation has a team of highly experienced clinical psychologists specialised in young people’s oncology who are accepting referrals to support young people now.
The Teenage Cancer Trust is running a campaign called Not OK which says many young people are facing cancer without the mental health support they need. The Ella Dawson Foundation hopes to play a part helping to provide this much needed support, including one-to-one exercise rehabilitation programmes.
The charity is hosting its own online yoga class on the first two Tuesdays in May from 10.15am to 11am. This is a gentle class, suitable for anyone and can be done either laying down on the floor, in bed or sitting in a chair. The sessions will focus on joint freeing movement, breath awareness and relaxation and the foundation will shortly be launching 1:1 Cancer Rehabilitation Exercise Programmes delivered by qualified
The Old Coach House holistic healing and wellness centre in Marsden is helping to support the charity and young adults with cancer and their families by providing afternoon teas, meals and snacks at its site next to the River Colne. People can spend peaceful, reflective time together in a snug, treehouse or tipi.
Jane said: “We know from our own family experience how important it is to have the opportunity to be able to get away from the hospital environment when you’re going through cancer treatment. Part of our support enables young adults to do just that.
“We offer regular dates in the beautiful tree house and tipi at the Wild Cafe where young adults and their families are able to spend time together, enjoy the peace and tranquillity , wonderful views of the valley and delicious food. This is proving to be a really popular event with young people and their families and we plan to expand events of this nature going forward.”
To book simply contact the charity at firstname.lastname@example.org
* Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting. Copyright Andy Hirst.