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Kate Winslet joins hundreds of mourners at funeral of mother who turned down chemotherapy

Kate Winslet has paid tribute to the ‘extraordinary determination’ of a mother who refused cancer treatment in order to save her unborn child as the Hollywood star joined hundreds of mourners at her funeral.

The actress, who raised £300,000 for Gemma Nuttall to have experimental immunotherapy after her baby was born, fought back tears as she joined Ms Nuttall’s family for yesterday’s service in Accrington, Lancashire.

Hailing the 29-year-old mother at the funeral, Hollywood A-lister Winslet said it was a ‘privilege’ to send her off and said she had ‘fought her battle against all odds’.  

Gemma Nuttall was diagnosed with ovarian cancer when pregnant with her daughter, Penelope, but delayed chemotherapy to save her baby’s life.

The treatment initially proved a success but the cancer returned and spread to her brain and lungs, and Ms Nuttall died early on Sunday, October 14, at the age of 29.  

Kate Winslet leaves the crematorium in Accrington, Lancashire, while her husband Ned Rocknroll holds her hand after a service for Gemma Nuttall, whose cancer treatment the Hollywood actress helped to pay for 

Winslet, 43, wipes her face as she enters the crematorium before the service with her husband Ned Rocknroll. She came across a fundraising page for Gemma Nuttall after witnessing her own mother suffer from cancer 

Winslet, 43, wipes her face as she enters the crematorium before the service with her husband Ned Rocknroll. She came across a fundraising page for Gemma Nuttall after witnessing her own mother suffer from cancer 

Helen Sproates, mother of Gemma Nuttall, is comforted at the funeral of her daughter which was attended by hundreds of guests in Lancashire. After Ms Nuttall's death she said she was a 'proud but devastated mum right now'

Helen Sproates, mother of Gemma Nuttall, is comforted at the funeral of her daughter which was attended by hundreds of guests in Lancashire. After Ms Nuttall’s death she said she was a ‘proud but devastated mum right now’

Gemma Nuttall, pictured with her daughter Penelope, was offered an abortion at 16 weeks but decided her unborn child's life was more important, her family said 

Gemma Nuttall, pictured with her daughter Penelope, was offered an abortion at 16 weeks but decided her unborn child’s life was more important, her family said 

Yesterday Winslet wiped her face as she entered the crematorium with her husband Ned Rocknroll and comforted Ms Nuttall’s mother, Helen Sproates, who first brought her daughter’s plight to the actress’s attention.  

At the funeral she paid tribute to the mother whose life she tried to save, saying she had managed to create ‘magical memories’ with Penelope which doctors never thought would be possible, the Lancashire Telegraph reported.  

Speaking at the funeral she said: ‘It is a privilege to be able to give Gemma the send-off she deserves at the end of her incredible fight.

‘As a young mum Gemma’s extraordinary determination to beat her cancer for Penelope was something that deeply moved me and made me want to help.

‘She was so clearly a fighter. She fought her battle and against all odds she kept proving them wrong. 

‘But even though that has not been the case and even though Gemma didn’t quite make it to 30, she did make it to Penelope’s first second, third and fourth birthdays and to her first day of big school.

Kate Winslet’s tribute to Gemma Nuttall in full

‘It is a privilege to be able to give Gemma the send-off she deserves at the end of her incredible fight.

‘As a young mum Gemma’s extraordinary determination to beat her cancer for Penelope was something that deeply moved me and made me want to help.

‘She was so clearly a fighter. She fought her battle and against all odds she kept proving them wrong.

‘The fundraising had been a phenomenal success and Helen’s initial efforts to send Gemma to Germany for immunotherapy treatment hadn’t been in vain. For a while it worked. 

‘But even though that has not been the case and even though Gemma didn’t quite make it to 30, she did make it to Penelope’s first second, third and fourth birthdays and to her first day of big school.

‘They were also able to have some magical memories together which doctors thought would be impossible.

‘In truth Gemma lived for at least 18 months longer than her specialists believed. She had more time with her family.

‘You Helen are an amazing lady and Gemma was as blessed to have you as you were to have her.

‘The bond between the two of you will never be broken. And even though I haven’t known you long I can say that from the deepest part of my heart.’   

‘They were also able to have some magical memories together which doctors thought would be impossible. In truth Gemma lived for at least 18 months longer than her specialists believed. She had more time with her family.’ 

Winslet also hailed Ms Sproates as an ‘amazing lady’, saying Ms Nuttall was ‘as blessed to have you as you were to have her.’  

Ms Nuttall’s older brother Andrew also paid tribute, saying it had been ‘the best thing ever’ to have her as a sister. 

Winslet came across the fundraising page for Ms Nuttall, from Rossendale, Lancashire, after seeing her own mother suffer and die from cancer. 

She clubbed together with Titanic co-star DiCaprio and the pair auctioned off ‘Jack and Rose date nights’, recalling their roles in the 1997 film, at a gala in Saint-Tropez last July.

Combined with money donated by friends, family and members of a the public, a total of £300,000 was raised.

The money allowed Ms Nuttall to travel to the Hallwang Oncology Clinic in Germany for an experimental cancer treatment, which was initially successful.

Medics declared her free of cancer but she then found a lump on the back of her head and doctors found the disease had returned and spread to her brain and lungs.   

Ms Sproates wrote online after her daughter’s death two weeks ago: ‘It is with an utterly broken heart that I have to tell you all that my beautiful warrior lost her battle early this morning.

‘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.’ 

Kate Winslet fights back tears as she leaves the crematorium with her husband after the funeral service for Gemma Nuttall 

Kate Winslet fights back tears as she leaves the crematorium with her husband after the funeral service for Gemma Nuttall 

Gemma Nuttall's carriage, led by two white horses dressed in pink and blue feathers, outside the crematorium during the service. The 29-year-old's family was joined by a host of mourners including actress Kate Winslet 

Gemma Nuttall’s carriage, led by two white horses dressed in pink and blue feathers, outside the crematorium during the service. The 29-year-old’s family was joined by a host of mourners including actress Kate Winslet 

Gemma Nuttall with her mother, Helen Sproates, who first brought her daughter's plight to the actress's attention with a fundraising page. At the funeral Winslet also paid tribute to Ms Sproates calling her an 'amazing lady'

Gemma Nuttall with her mother, Helen Sproates, who first brought her daughter’s plight to the actress’s attention with a fundraising page. At the funeral Winslet also paid tribute to Ms Sproates calling her an ‘amazing lady’

Deadly ovarian cancer often spreads before diagnosis  

About 80 per cent of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed in the advanced stages of the disease.

At the time of diagnosis, 60 per cent of ovarian cancers will have already spread to other parts of the body, bringing the five-year survival rate down to 30 per cent from 90 per cent in the earliest stage.

It is diagnosed so late because its location in the pelvis, according to U.S. professor Dr Ronny Drapkin.

‘The pelvis is like a bowl, so a tumor there can grow quite large before it actually becomes noticeable,’ Dr Drapkin said. 

The first symptoms to arise with ovarian cancer are gastrointestinal because tumors can start to press upward.

When a patient complains of gastrointestinal discomfort, doctors are more likely to focus on diet change and other causes than suggest an ovarian cancer screening.

Dr Drapkin said it is usually not until after a patient endures persistent gastrointestinal symptoms that they will receive a screening that reveals the cancer.

‘Ovarian cancer is often said to be a silent killer because it doesn’t have early symptoms, when in fact it does have symptoms, they’re just very general and could be caused by other things,’ he said.

‘One of the things I tell women is that nobody knows your body as well as you do. If you feel something isn’t right, something’s probably not right.’ 

Winslet said after Ms Nuttall’s death: ‘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. It was a privilege for me to be let into her life for a brief time and to try and help.

‘The most heartbreaking part is that the immunotherapy truly worked, but very sadly only for a brief while, in Gemma’s case.

‘Of course we all believed the cancer had gone forever. My heart breaks for her mum Helen and her daughter Penelope. They have lost a wonderful mother and daughter.’ 

Penelope, now four years old, will be raised by her father and his family. 

Ms Nuttall, who would have turned 30 next week, gave birth to Penelope after 36 weeks and the baby weighed 4lbs 5oz when she was born on March 24, 2014. 

Describing Ms Nuttall’s decision to refuse an abortion, Ms Sproates said on the fundraising page: ‘During her first pregnancy scan a so-called ”cyst” was discovered. 

‘We were told not to worry and that they would take a look at it on her next scan. The next scan came and our world changed forever in a single phone call. ”Mum, I have cancer.”

‘Gemma was 16 weeks pregnant – she was offered a termination so the tumour could be removed immediately and treatment started.

‘But Gemma decided her unborn child’s life was more important than her own so she declined and insisted on carrying on. 

‘Gemma carried her baby while having endless scans and feeling dreadful. At 36 weeks, due to size of the huge ovarian tumour, it was decided to do a c-section at the same time as removing the tumour. 

‘They kept her awake so she could see her own beautiful but small, daughter, Penelope, arrive into the world – only to be put to sleep and have the cancer removed.’

Ms Nuttall was clear of cancer for two years but in April 2016 she was diagnosed with brain and lung cancer which medics said had spread from the original ovarian cancer. 

Flowers, tributes and a portrait of Gemma outside the Lancashire crematorium where hundreds gathered to pay their respects to the 29-year-old, who fought off cancer for two years before discovering it had returned 

Flowers, tributes and a portrait of Gemma outside the Lancashire crematorium where hundreds gathered to pay their respects to the 29-year-old, who fought off cancer for two years before discovering it had returned 

Pall-bearers carry Ms Nuttall's coffin into Accrington Crematorium yesterday. Kate Winslet described the mother-of-one as a 'beacon of strength' and said she had 'fought this battle so incredibly hard' before she died earlier this month 

Pall-bearers carry Ms Nuttall’s coffin into Accrington Crematorium yesterday. Kate Winslet described the mother-of-one as a ‘beacon of strength’ and said she had ‘fought this battle so incredibly hard’ before she died earlier this month 

A man hugs Gemma's mother Helen Sproates outside the crematorium yesterday as some of the other mourners look on

A man hugs Gemma’s mother Helen Sproates outside the crematorium yesterday as some of the other mourners look on

‘She was such a beacon of strength’: Kate Winslet tells of her heartbreak after a cancer-stricken mother who she and Leonardo DiCaprio helped to raise £300,000 for vital treatment loses her fight for life

Ms Nuttall, from Lancashire, died on Sunday, October 14, following a five-year battle against cancer

Ms Nuttall, from Lancashire, died on Sunday, October 14, following a five-year battle against cancer

Kate Winslet spoke of her devastation after learning of the death of a ‘wonderful’ mother for whose cancer treatment she helped to pay.

The Hollywood actress raised money for experimental immunotherapy for 29-year-old Ms Nuttall, from Lancashire, who died on Sunday, October 14 following a five-year battle.

Ms was initially successfully treated for ovarian cancer but the disease returned and Winslet, along with Titanic co-star Leonardo DiCaprio, helped her raise £300,000 to have therapy in Germany.

Winslet said her death was ‘tragically sad’ and described Ms Nuttall as ‘a beacon of strength’, adding ‘my heart breaks for her mum and daughter’. 

Ms Nuttall’s mother, Helen Sproates, announced the death of her daughter in a Facebook post at 9.43am on Sunday, October 14.

Winslet told MailOnline: ‘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. 

‘It was a privilege for me to be let into her life for a brief time and to try and help. 

‘The most heartbreaking part is that the immunotherapy truly worked, but very sadly only for a brief while, in Gemma’s case. 

‘Of course we all believed the cancer had gone forever. My heart breaks for her mum Helen and her daughter Penelope. They have lost a wonderful mother and daughter.’   

Winslet, 42, was seeing her mother go through the same treatment at the same time and came across Ms Nuttall’s fundraising page online. 

In an emotional live television interview after Ms Nuttall was given the all clear in February 2018, Winslet said: ‘As we rose enough money for Gemma I set up another foundation to help other people in the same situation.

‘So much good has come out of this situation. Look at Gemma, she is beautiful, and cancer free.’

Ms Nuttall's mother, Helen Sproates, announced her daughter's death on Facebook at 9.43am on Sunday, October 14

Ms Nuttall’s mother, Helen Sproates, announced her daughter’s death on Facebook at 9.43am on Sunday, October 14

Penelope weighed 4lbs 5oz when she was born on March 24, 2014 and two weeks later dental nurse Ms Nuttall began six months of chemotherapy.

She was cancer free for more than a year but then found a lump on the back of her head. Doctors at Royal Blackburn Hospital later confirmed that Ms Nuttall had a stage four tumour. 

In an interview, Ms Nuttall remembered the moment vividly and sobbed: ‘I could see the devastation on the consultant’s face when he told me.

‘Then my mum and I burst into tears. I faced brain surgery and was told I might not be the same person afterwards. It was terrifying.’  

A GoFundMe page set up by Ms Nuttall’s mother, with the help of money raised by Winslet and DiCaprio, gathered enough money for her to travel to Germany for treatment.

Winslet, whose mother died of liver cancer in May 2017, said: ‘At the time I came across Gemma’s story my mother was given a very bad prognosis after a four-year battle.

Gemma Nuttall (left) was given the all-clear from cancer after Hollywood A-lister Kate Winslet (right) stepped in to help but she was later told the disease had returned

Gemma Nuttall (pictured) was given the all-clear from cancer after Hollywood A-lister Kate Winslet stepped in to help her receive specialist treatment in Germany, but she was later told the disease had returned

Gemma Nuttall (pictured) was given the all-clear from cancer after Hollywood A-lister Kate Winslet stepped in to help her receive specialist treatment in Germany, but she was later told the disease had returned

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet donated some of the proceeds from a fundraising dinner held last year in Saint-Tropez, France, to Ms Nuttall's cancer treatment fund. They are pictured together at the gala 

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet donated some of the proceeds from a fundraising dinner held last year in Saint-Tropez, France, to Ms Nuttall’s cancer treatment fund. They are pictured together at the gala 

‘We decided to look elsewhere and also stumbled across this treatment in Germany. 

‘And simultaneously I found a petition from someone on behalf of Gemma campaigning to have immunotherapy on the NHS.

‘I thought, this poor woman, who is probably years away from being able to access that kind of treatment.’

Ms Winslet said Ms Nuttall’s GoFundMe had £9,000 in it when she discovered it and knew her own mother would be ‘incredibly proud’ if she helped another young mother.

The Hollywood star said she began exchanging texts with Ms Nuttall’s mother, Ms Sproates, during which they agreed a way forward.

‘I started putting word out there amongst people I know who are very charitable and equally touched by Gemma’s story,’ she said on .

‘We reached £200,000 so at that point I thought it was time to call my friend, Leo, to ask if we could do a charity dinner or something. 

‘I phoned Leo and I said, ‘Do you think we could do a charity dinner or something?’ And he said, ‘Let’s go one better. Come with me to St Tropez, to my big fundraiser for the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation,’ which is back in July, ‘and we will auction off a dinner with Jack and Rose.’

‘And what happened was we auctioned off three dinners with Jack and Rose and we raised $1.35 million.’ 

Despite the treatment in Germany working well at first, Ms Nuttall’s cancer came back and she was moved to Pendleside Hospice in Burnley earlier in October.

When she died her mother said in a post online: ‘All of us are all totally devastated and heartbroken.

‘Gemma touched so many people’s lives and it’s only at times like this you begin to realise how well thought of she was. The common theme seems to be how kind and gentle she was and never had a bad word to say about anyone.

‘She was always putting others before herself. She was a kind and thoughtful daughter with a caring nature which obviously came across to her friends as well. She was very funny with a wicked sense of humour, and had a great sense of fun. 

The stars auctioned off three 'Jack and Rose' date nights, named after their characters in Titanic (pictured)

The stars auctioned off three ‘Jack and Rose’ date nights, named after their characters in Titanic (pictured)

‘She loved her music and movies but most of all she loved her special little Penelope and was a fantastic mummy to her. They had a very special relationship and Penelope has been her rock and her reason to keep going as long as she did.

‘It is heartbreaking to know Penelope is now having to grow up without her mummy’s love or influence, but we will keep Gemma’s memory alive and have made her a memory box already.

‘Luckily, we have a good relationship with Penelope’s daddy and his family who are now raising her. The world is missing one very special young woman who had a lot to offer and it’s cruel and tragic that she has been taken from us and her daughter who is just four.

‘As her mum I have been on this journey with her for just over five years now and there were times we thought we had it beaten, but it just wouldn’t leave her alone and the cancer kept returning to attack her over and over again.

‘To watch your child suffer this way over such a long period of time has been almost unbearable for me but somehow we got through until this final attack which invaded her brain and spinal cord.

‘We simply ran out of treatment options and the immunotherapy she received here in the UK just didn’t work – the cancer was too aggressive and widespread.

‘Our lives will never be the same again as any parent that loses a child will tell you. We are numb and in shock at the moment and the thought of a life with Gemma is again almost unbearable.

‘We have had some tremendous support on our journey from family, friends and professionals and we would like to thank each and every one of you from the bottom of our hearts. We could never have done this without you.’    

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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