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Gemma McLaughlin's family vow to complete fundraiser for Cancer Research


Inspiration: Gemma McLaughlin passed away on April 3

Inspiration: Gemma McLaughlin passed away on April 3

Inspiration: Gemma McLaughlin passed away on April 3

A Strabane woman who died just 18 days after being told she was terminally ill has been described as "an inspiration" by her family.

Gemma McLaughlin marked her 39th birthday on March 6 by asking people to contribute to her fundraising efforts for Cancer Research in lieu of presents.

Just three days later, after she undertook a challenge to walk 10,000 daily steps for the charity, Gemma began to feel unwell but neither she nor her family were prepared for the devastating diagnosis that followed.

Tests revealed that the skin cancer Gemma had been diagnosed with last year - and that she thought she was clear from - had not only returned, but this time it was terminal and she had six months to live.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Gemma's brother Martin McLaughlin said the news shattered the whole family - who have vowed to complete the Cancer Research fundraiser she started prior to her diagnosis.

He said: "We weren't surprised when Gemma said she wanted to raise money for Cancer Research because that was the kind of person she was. She was so brave and so inspirational.

"Her birthday was on March 6 and she told us she wanted to raise money for Cancer Research for the whole month.

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"Just three days later she started feeling really unwell and was sent for tests but none of us guessed it would be such bad news.

"The doctors told her her cancer was back and that it had spread and gave her just six months to live.

"Gemma, being the brave person she was, told us to meet up in our mother's house where she broke the bad news.

"We were all left reeling as you would imagine. We are very close as a family and we were all determined that we would do everything we could to make our remaining time with Gemma the best we could.

"We didn't get the chance to do any of the things we wanted to because Gemma deteriorated so badly and so rapidly."

Gemma developed pneumonia and was admitted to Altnagelvin Hospital on March 21 where she remained until she passed away on April 3, surrounded by her family and partner, Stephen Finlay.

As a final tribute to their sister, Marty and his brothers and sisters said they will keep Gemma's fundraising page open and they will walk the steps their beloved sister was just too ill to make.

He said: "Gemma hasn't had it easy her entire life, she was diagnosed with diabetes when she was only six and had a kidney transplant a few years ago.

"But when she was well, she made the most of everything and took so much joy out of spending time with her nieces and nephews, going out for the day with our mother and doing what she could to help others.

"Gemma intended to close her fundraising at the end of March but she was too ill to do even that so we decided to keep it going for another while. We asked for donations in her memory instead of sending flowers at her funeral and we are so grateful to those who have already contributed

"We are grateful too for all the kindnesses shown to us since Gemma passed away - not least from the staff at Altnagelvin hospital who were amazing and allowed us to spend Gemma's final moments with her."

To donate, visit Gemma's Walk All Over Cancer page for Cancer Research.

Belfast Telegraph

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