Ella Dawson Foundation: Family launch wellbeing charity in memory of Yorkshire artist who died from rare cancer at 24

A talented young artist who dedicated her efforts to helping others live well with cancer has inspired a new charitable foundation set up in her memory.

Ella Dawson, a former Bradford Grammar School pupil from Slaithwaite, was just 24 when she died of a rare form of leukaemia in July last year.

Through two years of gruelling treatment, much of it in isolation, she had found strength in health and wellness and wellbeing support, blogging openly about her diagnosis and experience.

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Now her family and partner, in the hope of helping other young people with cancer, have launched the Ella Dawson Foundation aimed at tailored support of the kind she so firmly believed in.

She was travelling when she fell ill

Healthy eating, the outdoors, yoga and creativity, the young artist championed wellness to show in her own words that "all was not lost".

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And while medically the hospital care she received was "exceptional", said her mother Jane Dawson, emotional and psychological support for young people can be variable.

She said: "Ella was always a very resilient and positive person. Always bubbly, likeable, with a calmness to her and with a wisdom beyond her years.

Ella, from Slaithwaite, studied fine art at Newcastle University

"That came to the fore when she was diagnosed with cancer. She still managed to keep most days positive. She felt that physical and psychological health helped.

"It's almost as if she was handing us a baton. Now, it feels the most natural thing in the world to carry on that legacy."

Ella had not long graduated in fine art from Newcastle University and was travelling in Columbia in August 2019 when she was diagnosed with PH+ ALL, a rare and aggressive form of blood cancer.

After spending a week in ICU, she returned home for chemotherapy at St James’s Hospital in Leeds. Treatment was invasive, said Mrs Dawson, and Ella had to isolate, so it was lonely too.

Throughout, she had wanted to help others, creating a successful wellbeing blog, working with charities, and launching her own art studio in Huddersfield.

As parents, said Mrs Dawson, her and Ella's father Kevin had "moved heaven and earth" to find help, tracking down specialists in Hong Kong and enlisting Ella on a clinical trial in California.

The morning they were due to fly, doctors decided her cancer was too advanced and this last hope was lost. Ella died just seven weeks later, on July 11 last year.

The Ella Dawson Foundation is aimed at helping young adults aged 18 to 30 live well with cancer, creating tailor support around psychological, nutritional, and physical health needs.

This could be exercise rehabilitation, peer and family support, wellbeing days. The dream, said Mrs Dawson, is its own centre with psychological support, and space for yoga.

Mrs Dawson said: "Ella was so passionate about living well, about saying 'all is not lost when you've got cancer - it just changes direction'. That, with the right support, it can be made easier.

"It is absolutely heartbreaking. Ella never complained. She inspired us. We want this charity to be a force for good, that makes a positive difference to young people with cancer.

"She would have wanted that because that is how she lived."

The foundation has been launched by Ella's parents, her sister Natasha who is now studying to be a cancer and exercise practitioner, and her partner Connor Gamble.

It is backed by significant clinical professionals who sit on its panel, including Dr Nicky Bould, senior clinical psychologist at St James Hospital, Hanna Simpson, TYA Lead North West, Dr Shauna Burke, assistant professor at Leeds University, Kirsty Rowlinson Groves, Can Rehab specialist, Jo Gamble, functional nutritionist and Tom Little, performance nutritionist.

Prints of Ella's work can now be purchased in support of the foundation, from notebooks to candles and cards, while fundraisers events include an Everest Base Camp trek, cycling from London to Paris, and a music, arts and wellbeing festival CoachELLA on August 13.

For more information visit: www.elladawsonfoundation.org.uk