World Cancer Day: Bolton teacher, 21, who died from rare cancer is remembered with fundraising

Jenna Patel’s GP initially thought a lump was a cyst but she was diagnosed as having a rare cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma.

The family of a young teacher from Bolton who died from a rare form of cancer are honouring her memory by fundraising for Cancer Research UK ahead of World Cancer Day on Saturday 4 February.

Jenna Patel, 21, lost her fight against Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare but aggressive form of cancer, last year. She was training to be a teacher when she discovered a lump on her shoulder which she thought was an insect bite. She visited her GP to get it checked and they believed it to be a cyst but sent Jenna for ultrasound tests, which proved inconclusive.

Jenna, from Belmont, was placed on a waiting list for an MRI but the lump began to grow very rapidly, and she was referred for tests at Manchester Royal Infirmary. While she was waiting in the hospital corridor, she and her mum Priti came across a poster showing sarcomas (cancers that develop in the supporting tissues of the body such as bones) and they realised Jenna could have cancer. Sadly their suspicions proved correct and Jenna was referred to The Christie for a course of chemotherapy. Her dad Manish had recently been diagnosed with lung cancer - meaning father and daughter underwent chemotherapy at the same time.

As she was making good progress throughout the autumn, doctors told Jenna she should be in full recovery by the following March and she assumed she would be back at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk to complete her final year of studies the following October. However, once Jenna stopped chemotherapy and was due to have a break in treatment before starting radiotherapy, the tumour once again grew very aggressively. She had more scans and plans for radiotherapy needed to be scrapped.

Jenna Patel and brother Liam and parents Priti and Manish

She was referred to the specialist Birmingham Royal Orthopaedic Hospital and underwent surgery just weeks before Christmas to remove the tumour. However, just before her 21st birthday, Jenna was given the news that her tumour had now spread to her lungs, and after more chemo, her family received the devastating news last April that the cancer was terminal.

Courageous Jenna planned her own funeral, asking that those attending shouldn’t be sad, her favourite artist Stormy should be played, and that a party should be held afterwards to celebrate her life. Jenna died at home on 13 May 2022.

Her family are keen to keep Jenna’s memory alive and have been busy fundraising for cancer charities, including raising more than £6,000 for Cancer Research UK after taking part in the night-time Shine walk in Manchester last autumn. Her dad Manish continues to receive monthly cancer treatment and her brother Liam, 18, is hoping to study biomedical science to help others.

Mum Priti, 49, said: “Throughout absolutely everything Jenna never ever stopped smiling and that’s what people always think of, her beautiful smile. When we were told she had cancer, I felt numb. The news was too much to take in knowing that her dad was only a few miles up the road also going through cancer treatment.

“Jenna remained so positive and determined that she inspired us all. Her death has left a huge hole in our lives and we miss her very deeply. But she wanted Liam to have an amazing career and go into medical research to make a difference. And we want to keep her memory alive to help others and raise as much money as we can to get rid of such a horrible disease.”

How to donate to Cancer Research UK

Around 43,600 people were diagnosed with cancer in the North West last year. Cancer Research UK spokesperson Jane Bullock said: “This World Cancer Day, we want to say a heartfelt thank you to amazing supporters like Priti, Liam and Manish. Their generosity of heart in fundraising and bravely sharing Jenna’s story is incredible.

“Regular giving is crucial to our work, because it means we can fund long term research – research that could lead to new discoveries about cancer and unlock new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat it.”