Epsom Derby fundraiser marks 5th anniversary of daughter’s death

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A Surrey mother whose youngest child died of brain cancer five years ago is attending the Epsom Derby tomorrow (Saturday 1 June) for a fundraising event in the quest to help find a cure.

Brain Tumour Research has partnered with The British Hat Guild and The Jockey Club to exhibit an exclusive collection of 15 haute couture hats at Epsom Downs Racecourse on one of the biggest days in the racing calendar. The Carnival of Colour collection is being auctioned to help fund vital research.

Debi Oliver, from Esher, lost her daughter, Emily (above with Debi, father Tim and brother James), to a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) – also known as a diffuse midline glioma (DMG) – in July 2019 aged just 21.

The student nurse experienced dizzy spells and problems with her eyes before being diagnosed with the most aggressive form of childhood cancer in January 2018 and told she had three months to live without treatment.

She underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy and travelled to Germany for privately funded treatment but died 18 months later.

Debi, who is also mum to Charlotte and James, said: “It’s hard to believe that five years have passed since Emily died. Sometimes I still expect her to be here.

“Remembering her death is difficult when Emily was a person who loved life so much. She embraced every opportunity, was the life and soul of the party, and had found her true vocation. Even when she was desperately ill, making people better was what Emily wanted to do and now it’s up to us to continue her legacy.”

Nine months before her death, Emily set up the Emily Oliver Fighting Fund for her 21st birthday to receive donations instead of gifts to help find a cure for DIPG tumours. It has since amassed £200,000 which her parents recently donated to fund a DIPG-focused project at our Centre of Excellence at the Sutton campus of the Institute of Cancer Research London.

Now, Debi hopes to inspire people to bid on the bespoke carnival-themed hats by sharing her story. She said: “The big message I want people to take home is that brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under the age of 40, yet just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to brain tumours since records began in 2002. We need to do so much more to improve outcomes for patients and stop families experiencing the heartache we feel every day.”

The 58-year-old former GP added: “I’m delighted to be attending the Epsom Derby to support Brain Tumour Research’s hat auction. Emily absolutely loved the races and she’d have loved to go to this event with me and try on all the stunning hats. I was lucky enough to place the winning bid on a Judy Bentinck hat at last year’s auction which I’ll be wearing on Saturday at Epsom. I’ve got my eye on a fuchsia pink one this year.”

Credit: The Jockey Club/John Hoy

The Carnival of Colour headpieces (some of which were modelled by supporters at Epsom last month, above) will be showcased at The Betfair Derby Festival at Epsom Downs Racecourse from 31 May to 1 June, with a ‘buy-it-now’ option.

Bids can be placed here until 12pm on Monday 10 June.

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