Solving Kids’ Cancer are absolutely devastated to share the news that on the morning of September 7th, 2018, Jess gave her last roar.
Jess has inspired us throughout her fight, always smiling as she beat ‘Boris’ each time. But neuroblastoma is a cruel disease which has high relapse rates and Jess showed unbelievable bravery each time it happened.
The thoughts of everyone at Solving Kids’ Cancer are with Jess’ family. We will always #RoarForJess as we fight neuroblastoma.
Her family posted this on social media: “It is with great sadness we have to tell you that Jess gave her last roar and gained her angel wings this morning. She passed away peacefully.
I would like to thank you all for your support. Nanny and grandad would like to thank our children for their unwavering commitment and love, we couldn’t have done the last 7 weeks without them.
We are going to take some time for ourselves and ensure that Taylor and Mia are protected during this difficult time. We are absolutely devastated, heartbroken doesn’t even cover it. We will post next week when we have details of Jess’s FUNeral. 💔💔💔👼👼👼”
3-year-old Jessica had always been a healthy child until one day in 2011 when Jessica fell and bumped her chin at nursery. Her family and nursery staff were concerned as the pupils in Jessica’s eyes had changed size. Jessica was taken to hospital and it was from this point onwards that the medical investigations began.
Jessica’s Nan, Louise, says “The results of those investigations shocked the family. We were told that Jessica had a tumour called Neuroblastoma.” Fortunately, this was a low-risk tumour which actually went into spontaneous remission.
For the next couple of years, Jessica continued life as normal, largely unaffected by the earlier health scare. It wasn’t until December 2013 when things took a turn for the family. It was Christmas time and Jessica, now 6 years old, began complaining that she felt unwell. On Christmas Day, she wasn’t her usual excited self and from there, “She just went downhill; we were so worried and knew something was not right” says Louise.
They took Jessica to hospital and further tests and scans revealed that she had a lump on her neck. Doctors confirmed to the family that she had relapsed – the neuroblastoma had returned.
Neuroblastoma is a particularly aggressive form of childhood cancer and the most common cancer outside the brain in children under 5 years old.
Louise explains “Whilst we were devastated, we knew we had to help Jess understand what was happening to her and so we named the tumour Boris, Boring Boris.”
Jessica needed intensive treatment which meant lots of time in hospital. She had 4 cycles of chemotherapy and then surgery to remove ‘Boris’ [the tumour]. After recovering from her surgery, Jessica started the next phase of her treatment – 14 sessions of radiotherapy and 6 months of a drug called Cis Retinoic Acid.
By December 2014, a year after Jessica’s first relapse, the family were told: “There was no evidence of disease with a good chance that ‘Boris’ was gone for good.”
However, just 2 months after this hopeful news, the family were heartbroken to be told that Jessica had relapsed again, with a tumour in her neck – in the very same place as the previous tumour. Louise says, “We couldn’t comprehend it at first, knowing that yet more difficult treatment lay ahead for Jess”.
Jessica had to have surgery again to try and remove the tumour, followed by high dose chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant and 20 sessions of radiotherapy. Surgery had been successful and whilst there was no evidence of disease at this point, Jessica still needed to complete a 6-month-course of Cis Retinoic Acid. However, before she could get to the end of her treatment, the family were given more devastating news; she’d relapsed for the 3rd time. “As a family, we are absolutely gutted,” says Louise.
Jessica is currently receiving a new experimental treatment at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. At the moment, the family are in what they describe as ‘the unknown realms of clinical trial treatments.’ The treatment that Jessica has had in the past has not stopped the cancer from returning. Jess’s family and their medical team are hopeful that the clinical trial she is currently enrolled on will bring her back into remission and prevent the disease from returning.
Jessica is now 8 years old and loves Queens Park Rangers! She understands her illness quite well and has started to question ‘Why me?’ The family say, “We do not know what the future holds but Jess is the strongest little person we know. We will continue to fight alongside her to beat this awful disease.”
Relapse rates for neuroblastoma are high, and survival rates for relapsed neuroblastoma are very low. It is particularly challenging to treat and there are limited options to treat it; all of which exist in the form of clinical trials, some in the UK and some abroad. Many families just like Jessica’s will choose for their child to access these experimental therapies to stop the cancer from returning. Your fundraising will mean that if Jessica’s family choose for her to access an experimental therapy abroad in the desperate hope of preventing her cancer from returning, she can access the treatment and is not prohibited by an overwhelming cost. By supporting Jessica’s Journey, you can help ensure that every possible treatment option is open to Jessica should she need it, whether at home or abroad.
Your fundraising will mean that if Jessica’s family choose for her to access an experimental therapy abroad in the desperate hope of preventing her cancer from returning, she can access the treatment and is not prohibited by an overwhelming cost. By supporting Jessica’s Journey, you can help ensure that every possible treatment option is open to Jessica should she need it, whether at home or abroad.
If Jessica does not access a clinical trial abroad, the funds will be used to support other children and families affected by neuroblastoma.
Jessica’s family are, “overwhelmed by the support so far – thank you to everybody.”
To make a donation to Jessica’s Journey visit: https://campaign.justgiving.com/charity/solvingkidscancer/JessicaShepherd/
To donate via your mobile phone text ‘HJBB48’ and an amount £1 – £10 to 70070.
If you’d like to fundraise for Jessica, contact the fundraising team at Solving Kids’ Cancer on 0207 284 0800 | email@example.com