Beloved team boosts fighting spirit

SHE'S a rare inspiration with a true tale of survival.

Devoted and courageous Panthers supporter Gemma Seward has overcome a phenomenal journey of life-threatening health complications but her fighting spirit and glowing smile have proven impossible to tame.

While the 35-year-old's reality too often revolves around neurologists, endocrinologists, liver specialists, heart specialists and general practitioners, it's never as fierce as her staggering resilience and incredibly gutsy persona.

"I wasn't meant to be here," she told the Star at the Panthers' Women in League's annual 'Pink' luncheon on Monday afternoon.

"I had leukaemia when I was 22 months' old, I wasn't even two.

"I've had two mini strokes, I had my thyroid out [she was diagnosed with cancer of the thyroid nine years ago], popped blood vessels in my liver and I had a heart attack on the 13th of October last year.

"But my mum brought me back. My mum saved me.

"I was walking back from my nephew's school and my mum was walking across from our neighbour's house back to my house and she picked me up and put me in the car."

After being diagnosed with leukaemia, Ms Seward had four years of chemotherapy and radiation that may have contributed to her on-going illnesses and she still undergoes tests "all the time".

When she was a six-year-old, her father died from a heart attack.

Her experiences embody the importance of the fund-raising efforts made by the Panthers' Women In League foundation, who contributed money raised at Monday's lunch to the Cure the Future foundation.

"They're trying to find cures for all sorts of diseases but cancer is the top priority," Panthers Women in League founder Diane Langmack said.

"I'm a cancer survivor, just like Gemma, so we've all got to stick together and by raising funds like this, we can give hope to other families."

Ms Seward added: "You've got to be tough. You've got to be strong."

Upon discovering her daughter had leukaemia, Ms Seward's mother, Kay Jackson, was hopeful a cure was only one year away.

"That's how you thought 33 years ago," Ms Jackson said. "And still today, there's no cure."

Almost as valuable as a cure, however, have been Ms Seward's beloved Panthers and the friendship and support shown by the playing group and staff.

"That's all she does all day," Ms Jackson said.

"She's got an iPad and a laptop and she writes to all the Panthers.

"Without them, I don't know where she'd be."

Winger Sandor Earl is Ms Seward's "main one" with the 22-year-old a constant pillar of support.

"I'm so lucky," Ms Seward said.

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