We remember the inspirational Ella Dawson – who, at just 24, worked passionately to help other young people with cancer – as her family and friends prepare to cycle from London to Paris this week in her memory
‘I just wanted to put out there something I was missing, something for people my own age with cancer’
At 24 years old, Ella Dawson was an aspiring artist with an infectious love for life and the people in it.
She had a passion for travelling and discovering new cultures. Like most girls her age, she loved partying and, when the sun came up, found relaxation in yoga.
A Huddersfield local, Ella moved to the North East in 2015 to study BSc Fine Art at Newcastle University and fell in love with the city and its people, spending four happy years in the Toon. But it was shortly after graduation, as she was having the time of her life travelling across Colombia in August 2019, that Ella was diagnosed with PH+ Acute lymphoblastic leukemia – a rare and aggressive form of blood cancer.
Over the following two years, Ella underwent non-stop treatment, which was often invasive, aggressive and draining. She received more than 70 chemotherapy infusions, six months of immunotherapy, several rounds of radiotherapy and a gruelling stem cell transplant. But despite the efforts of all her doctors, Ella’s cancer kept coming back.
Ella’s final hope was to go on a clinical trial in the USA in June of last year. But, on the morning of the flight, doctors told her she was too ill to travel. Tragically, Ella passed away less than a month later.
Despite undergoing the most awful treatment, Ella would never be defined by cancer. She chose to live life to the full – finding joy, gratitude and purpose in every day, even when things got tough.
Ella focused on the things she loved and set up her own art business, working to establish her name in the art industry while, at the same time, partnering with blood cancer charities to raise awareness of the disease and the realities of undergoing treatment for blood cancer as a young person.
Because that was what Ella became most passionate about – helping other young people with cancer.
When she was diagnosed in 2019, she found that wellbeing support tailored towards the unique needs of young adults with cancer was, whilst still vital, severely limited in the UK. Not one to be defeated by anything, she set out to create a blueprint for better wellbeing support of young adults with cancer.
This included everything from guidance on eating well to support recovery, finding safe and manageable ways of keeping fit and active, and introducing mindful practices – such as yoga, meditation, journaling, and complimentary therapies – into everyday life. Ella was also driven to connect with and support other young people going through the same experience. Indeed, when she reflected on the two years since her diagnosis with her loved ones shortly before she passed away, Ella credited this network of young people as the reason she was able to not only withstand her gruelling treatment, but also to live happily every day, despite her prognosis.
Despite her situation, Ella was forever inspirational. She faced every day with gratitude, purpose, positivity, incredible strength, bravery and humour. She also believed passionately – and showed through her own actions – that with good mental and physical health support, it was possible to live well and with purpose through and beyond a cancer diagnosis.
THE ELLA DAWSON FOUNDATION
Ella’s family and friends continue Ella’s work and uphold her philosophy of life today through the Ella Dawson Foundation.
The Foundation was set up by Ella’s mum, Jane, dad Kevin, sister Tasha (who is studying to become a cancer and exercise practitioner) and Ella’s partner, Connor, who Ella met at university. They are supported by a team of outstanding clinical professionals who help to provide tailored physical, psychological, emotional, nutritional and wellbeing support within a community framework to young adults with cancer across the UK.
Research shows that psychological and physical interventions can provide significant benefits after a cancer diagnosis, and the ultimate aim of the charity is to set up their own specialist centre one day.
On 11th February this year – on what would have been her 25th birthday – Ella’s art was showcased in a commemorative exhibition, Every Space we Occupy, held by Newcastle University in Ella’s honour in the XL Libris gallery. An in-depth and inspiring view of her life and work, the exhibition provided the opportunity for the Foundation to sell prints, notebooks and journals with Ella’s designs to benefit the work they continue to do across the country.
Ella’s love of life, her hope and optimism shines through her artwork, with her use of vibrant colour reflecting just how she saw the world with richness, beauty and potential. And now, that is just what inspires her loved ones to remember her zest for life as they continue their fundraising efforts.
This week, some of Ella’s family and friends will be undertaking the 246-mile challenge of cycling from London to Paris in her memory. Her mum, dad, Connor and Tasha’s partner Lewis will also be undertaking a 75-mile trek to the Everest base camp in November this year. The family welcomes anyone to join them.
‘While we are beyond heartbroken and miss Ella so, so much, Ella’s energy, passion and desire to help others lives on through us,’ says mum, Jane. ‘And through the ethos and ambition of her legacy: the Ella Dawson Foundation.’
The Ella Dawson Foundation’s team of highly experienced clinical psychologists, who specialise in young people’s oncology, are accepting referrals to support young people now. If you know someone who may benefit, get in touch.
To donate and support the Foundation’s fundraising efforts, visit their GoFundMe page.
And support the Ella Dawson Foundation by buying a print, card, notebook, candle or mindfulness journal on Ella’s website – with all proceeds going to the charity.