The cancer-stricken mother, with two years left to live, is still battling five years later – and now runs a busy shop.
Brave Gemma Ellis, 39, was fatally diagnosed in 2017, leading her to leave her job in the NHS.
But five years later, she’s still alive and running a charity shop that supports others with stage four breast cancer.
The Manchester mother-of-two said: “I don’t know how I do it. The shop is very busy and I just love it.
“The first full day made me feel like a normal person. It was wonderful to get up, load the dishwasher and go to work.
“I felt like a working mom again, I missed it so much. I never imagined I would do this, I’m really happy!”
Gemma was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer in February 2017 when she was working as an NHS discharge coordinator.
She said: “Inflammatory breast cancer is very rare. You won’t get a lump. I had pain, rash and redness all over my upper left breast.
“Nobody knew what it was and it doesn’t show up on mammograms. I had months of going back and forth to doctors before I had an MRI and was diagnosed.
Gemma then underwent six rounds of chemotherapy, surgery and 15 rounds of radiation – and sat behind her desk again in September.
But incurable changes were subsequently found by a CT scan of her lungs and spine in April 2018.
Shocked by the lack of funds available, Gemma decided to help other terminal cancer patients.
She, husband Ben, 33, and their daughters, Ruby, 12, and Scarlett, 10, began sending out packages containing comforting products and information pages.
Gemma also created a website, a social media support group, and started her first GoFundMe. The locals began to deliver things in parcels to her house.
She spent so much time sending out support packages that she resigned from the NHS in 2019.
Her organization then became a charity in July 2022. Gemma was named in Parliament and even received a letter from then Prime Minister Boris Jonson.
Her fundraiser was such a success that she set up a research foundation and opened her charity shop on October 1 near her home in Manchester.
She said: “It was pretty crazy, but I’ve always been the type to just get up and do something if I want to.
“Stage four means it can be treated, but it can’t be cured – then you know you can’t get away from it.
“I was given one or two years, but I lived five. It was very lonely at first, there was no support.
“When you’ve been diagnosed with primary cancer, you get all sorts of pamphlets about treatment, support groups and recovery.
“When it was secondary, it was very different, there was very little information.
“I needed this support group and positive stories. I needed to hear about people who continued to lead normal lives and how long they survived.
“There was nothing to help my family or show me how to tell my kids.
“It’s a day-to-day existence. You can befriend someone and then lose them after a few months, while others last for 13 years.
It depends on the type of cancer and treatment, and different people react in different ways, but there is no way to predict this. Really, you just have to break.
Gemma’s secondary damage is now in her brain as well as in her spine and both lungs.
She spoke candidly with her daughters about her illness and even organized wigs when she started losing her hair.
Gemma runs her organization despite her own three weeks of chemotherapy and even brain surgery.
Due to a postoperative infection, she has a 20cm hole in her skull just behind her forehead, but that doesn’t stop her.
To other terminal cancer patients, Gemma said, “Don’t panic. Let people help you, let them in and take whatever they offer you. Look for positive stories.