Mother of Bradley Lowery, who formed a heartwarming bond with Jermain Defoe during his battle with cancer, reveals she’s become a ‘workaholic’ after feeling a ‘total loss of purpose’ following her son’s death
- Gemma Lowery, 36, from County Durham, set up Bradley Lowery Foundation
- Has since raised more than £3M to help other families in similar situations
- She said she ‘felt like she wasn’t a mum anymore’ after her son passed away
- Bradley sadly lost his life to neuroblastoma on 7 July 2017, aged just six
Bradley Lowery’s mother has revealed she’s become a ‘workaholic’ since setting up a charity to continue her son’s legacy – and says it helps her to cope with her grief.
Gemma Lowery, 36, from Blackhall Colliery, County Durham, has turned her loss into a positive by raising more than £3M for other poorly children across the UK since tragically losing the cancer-stricken Sunderland superfan, who passed in July 2017, aged just six,
‘When Bradley passed, I went from being a full time, around-the-clock carer, to having no one to care for,’ explained Gemma, who is the CEO of the Bradley Lowery Foundation. ‘My older son, Kieran, was around 15.’
‘I felt a total loss of purpose, like I wasn’t a mum anymore, on top of the sense of loss of Bradley. And that’s when I turned my attention to the foundation, where I now work 60-70 hours a week. I may be a workaholic but that’s the way I cope.’
Gemma Lowery, 36, from Blackhall Colliery, has turned her loss into a positive by raising more than £3M for other poorly children across the UK after setting up the Bradley Lowery Foundation. Pictured, with her son before his neuroblastoma diagnosis
Bradley (pictured in his Sunderland kit) tragically lost his battle with a rare form of cancer two years ago on 7 July, 2017
The youngster formed a heartwarming bond with the then Sunderland and England striker Jermain Defoe after meeting him as a mascot. Pictured, in hospital together
Sunderland fan Bradley lost his battle with a rare form of cancer called neuroblastoma two years ago.
‘I can’t even begin to describe it,’ said Gemma, speaking of the emotions she went through on Bradley’s last days.
‘Going through the loss of a child is incredibly difficult. It’s difficult enough to go through the death of any family member, never mind your child.’
‘It’s something that I’d never want anybody else to ever experience. But having the foundation means that I have something positive to focus on, and something to keep Bradley’s legacy going – by supporting other families and their children who are in similar circumstances.
Gemma and Bradley’s father, Carl (pictured), had been fundraising since Bradley was diagnosed with the rare cancer aged 18 months, with the hope of taking him for pioneering treatment in the US
Jermain and football superfan Bradley (pictured together in hospital) formed a very close friendship. He even got the youngster’s name tattooed on his wrist as a tribute following his death
Gemma and Bradley’s father, Carl, had been fundraising since Bradley was diagnosed with the rare cancer aged 18 months, with the hope of taking him for pioneering treatment in the US.
They’d raised £1.3m, but Bradley sadly passed before they were able to go. They decided instead to spend it on other families in similar situations.
‘I always knew, when we started fundraising for Bradley that, if he wasn’t here to use the money for his treatment, I would give it to another child in need,’ she said.
‘When it became apparent that Bradley wasn’t going to use the money, because he wasn’t going to survive, I then decided that I would take what I’d learned on my journey and turn it into a positive.’
On 22nd August 2017, Gemma received the charity number and ploughed all of her grief into setting up the foundation.
The Bradley Lowery foundation supports families who are fundraising for treatment or equipment, which is not readily available or covered by the NHS. Pictured, a cheque being presented to the foundation
The hardworking mother said: ‘Bradley had such an engaging personality, his smile got everyone on board.’ Pictured, staff at Nissan participate in BLF campaign, Cancer has no Colours
Bradley’s foundation are committed to ‘campaigning for better funding and research into childhood cancers.’ Pictured, a Kenyan football team in the BLF shirts
‘I gained a lot of knowledge on the journey from Brad’s diagnosis, right up to his passing,’ explained Gemma.
‘I learned about working with medical professionals, at home and abroad; how to fundraise, and of course personal experience of what dozens of families go through every year.’
The Bradley Lowery foundation has supported:
• 8 children to get treatment abroad in 6 different hospitals
• 2 specialised beds
• 2 home extensions
• 3 specialised chairs/walking aids
• 5 children received or are still receiving specialised physiotherapy
• 1 cochlear implant • 1 ear reconstruction
• Campaigning for children alongside DKMS for a bone marrow match, 2 of our children have now got a match
– We are currently working with 36 active campaigns, including research and holiday home plans
‘I thought it would be a waste not to put that knowledge and experience to good use.’
‘So we now pass that onto other families and work with them to reach their fundraising goals.’
Since then, the Bradley Lowery foundation has helped more than 30 desperately ill children.
‘Bradley had such an engaging personality, his smile got everyone on board,’ said Gemma. ‘The biggest challenge, of trying to live up to his name, is very daunting.’
‘But at the foundation we have six, dedicated, strong women, all working tirelessly to make him proud. We have incredibly big shoes to fill.’
The foundation supports families who are fundraising for treatment or equipment, which is not readily available or covered by the NHS – including all illnesses and conditions.
‘We’re also committed to campaigning for better funding and research into childhood cancers,’ explained Gemma.
‘This will become a big focus for us in the near future. We were very lucky when Bradley was here; we got to make so many memories.
She added: ‘I want to be able to give that back to other families, so that they can have somewhere to go to make memories with their poorly children too.’
Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe and Gemma speak or text around once a week, just to check in and see how each other are doing. Pictured the footballer and Bradley at the Premier League match between Everton and Sunderland at Goodison Park on February 25, 2017 in Liverpool
Defoe walked out Bradley on to Wembley ahead of an England match but the roar of the crowd was too much for the youngster to handle. Pictured on Sunday, March 26, 2017
‘That’s why we’re developing plans to support a £600,000 holiday home in Scarborough.’
The charity has recently launched a support line for the families of children with cancer in the North East, which will be available seven days a week, 9am-9pm.
But while Gemma has pumped all of her grief into setting up the foundation, she went onto explain that everybody deals with grief differently and that there’s no right or wrong way.
‘I do come across as quite strong, but people only get to see a snapshot of my life,’ explained Gemma.
‘Of course, I’ve had periods where I’ve struggled to get out of bed and so I’ve worked from there, when I’ve not been able to face going to work.
‘But helping other families and knowing that I’m continuing my little boy’s legacy, does help me. I’m not Wonder Woman – but the charity helps me battle through.’
She continued: I’ve always been stubborn and strong-willed, even from being a tiny baby.’
‘But the charity gives me a purpose, and it brings out my strength, determination and kindness.’
Speaking of the foundation, Gemma said: ‘The biggest challenge, of trying to live up to his name, is very daunting.’ Pictured, receiving a cheque from local fundraisers
Gemma told how the foundation are developing plans to support a £600,000 holiday home in Scarborough. Pictured, an architect’s impression of the Scarborough holiday home
The charity has recently launched a support line for the families of children with cancer in the North East, which will be available seven days a week, 9am-9pm. Pictured, the support line launch
The youngster famously became inseparable from the then Sunderland and England striker Jermain Defoe after meeting him as a mascot.
‘Jermain is still a good friend,’ said Gemma. ‘We still talk regularly and I don’t think that’ll ever change.’
‘He became close to the whole family when Bradley was here, because of the amazing connection they had.’
What is neuroblastoma?
Neuroblastoma is a rare cancer that affects children and usually starts in the abdomen.
Around 100 children, who are typically under five, are diagnosed every year in the UK.
The disease affects approximately 700 new children annually in the US.
In around half of cases, neuroblastoma spreads to other parts of the body, particularly the liver and skin.
Neuroblastoma’s cause is unclear. There may be a family-history link.
The main symptom is usually a lump in the abdomen, which may cause swelling, discomfort or pain.
If the disease affects the spinal cord, it can lead to numbness, weakness and loss of movement in the lower part of the body.
Treatment depends on how advanced the cancer is and the risk it will return after therapy.
Surgery, and chemo and radiotherapy, are commonly used.
Source: Cancer Research UK
Speaking of Jermain, who went on to get the youngster’s name tattooed on his wrist as a tribute following his death, she added:
‘Jermain is a very busy man, playing for Rangers, scoring lots of goals and I’m an extremely busy woman, running a charity but we still speak or text around once a week, just to check in and see how each other is doing.
‘I’ve got the most amazing friends and family you could ever ask for. Although I’ve had a rubbish time, I consider myself blessed to have friends and family who have supported me every step of the way.
‘I wouldn’t be where I am today, without them; I can’t praise and thank them enough.’
She added: ‘Support from social media users, whether from our local community, the UK or all over the world, has been absolutely amazing.’
‘The support we got was incredible, every step of the way. Without that support and encouragement, I don’t think I’d be where I am today.
‘I hope that everybody will continue to support all the families we work with now, in the same way they supported me.’
Bradley captured the hearts of the nation when he formed a touching friendship with Jermain. Pictured, the football fan in January 2017
Gemma said ‘the charity gives me a purpose, and it brings out my strength, determination and kindness.’ Pictured, staff from the foundation reopening a nursery in Washington
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