Our ‘inspirational, beautiful’ daughter died from cancer - but Queen and David Bowie helped her cope
PUBLISHED: 16:22 27 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:22 27 August 2019
Even in the toughest of times, when faced with terminal cancer during her teenage years, Jess Grant was an “inspirational, brave, positive, beautiful young lady who always met the world with a smile”.
The Ipswich youngster was just 11 when diagnosed with osteosarcoma in September 2014, a rare bone cancer which would later go on to tragically claim her life.
While many teenagers were enjoying happy and carefree days, Jess faced some of the darkest times imaginable for any young person before her death on January 26 2018, aged 15.
But the thing that kept her smiling more than anything was an intense passion for music.
The keen drummer and guitarist used to love both playing and listening to music, finding that the likes of Queen and David Bowie helped distract her from her illness and take her to another world.
And today her Kesgrave family, devastated by their loss, have thrown their lives into raising money for music provision at hospitals - to give other poorly children like Jess the joys of music to help them cope.
Thier campaign is even backed by Brian May, guitarist of Jess' favourite band Queen, who is patron of the Jess Grant Celebration charity set up in her honour.
On Saturday, September 28 they will hold JessFest at Kesgrave Community Centre, not just to remember a beloved daughter but raise money for a music therapist at Ipswich Hospital's children's unit.
It is an event Anita Grant, Jess' mother, believes her daughter would be intensely proud of - saying: "She'd be really pleased that children are going to have something to take them away from whatever they are going through and give them a little bit of distraction."
'Such an incredible shock'
Anita said that the day Jess was diagnosed with cancer was "such an incredible shock".
"One day we were going about our usual business and quite literally another day we were being pulled into a hospital," Anita said.
"It was such an incredible shock. It wasn't something you ever think about - I didn't even know a child could get bone cancer."
Her wide circle of friends were also left devastated by the news - but despite everything, Jess would never been seen without a smile.
"She had a heck of a lot of friends," Anita, aged 50, said.
"She was very popular and very often smiling but she was quite private. She didn't really talk to people about what she was going through.
"People didn't really know what she was going through. She was always having a laugh with the nurses.
"She used to amaze me. We knew what she was going through but I think people outside wouldn't have known. She'd put a smile on her face as she walked into the room.
"She didn't share what she was going through. She always remained very positive."
'Music was her coping strategy'
Intensive chemotherapy meant that Jess "didn't get much let up from the cancer", Anita said, with long periods in Ipswich Hospital and Cambridge's Addenbrooke's Hospital.
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But during her long treatment periods, she was fortunate enough to benefit from a music therapist at Addenbrooke's.
"During that time she got a lot out of music," Anita said.
"Music was definitely her coping strategy. I knew that when she picked up her guitar or was listening to music, it seemed to take her away from it all.
"She loved playing music with other people. She loved learning more about music. She got a lot out of studying music at school. It was just a passion."
Jess had an eclectic taste in music, enjoying everything from David Bowie and Adam and the Ants to the Foo Fighters.
Queen was her absolute favourite and one of her happiest moments was when she got to meet the band's guitarist, Brian May.
"She also played the drums, especially when things were really tough," Anita said.
"She would just take herself off and play some music, particularly in the last few weeks of her life.
"She loved having a real go at the drums. She loved playing the Foo Fighters and thrashing some notes."
Jess' other love was her cockapoo, Maisy, now aged three, who helped her cope with the toughest times.
Jess Grant Celebration
Despite the sadness of Jess' passing, Anita says that one of the most positive things to come out of her death has been the fundraising in her honour
Classmates from her school raised money in her memory as part of their National Citizen Service activities.
And now the Jess Grant Celebration has been set up to "improve the well-being of children suffering from medical conditions by supporting the provision of music therapy".
Its main focus at the moment is JessFest, an event to celebrate the youngster's life which will feature acoustic acts, choirs, solo artists and young musicians between 1pm and 11pm on September 28.
But the charity is part of a wider mission to continually boost music provision in hospitals - and appropriately, given Jess' love for Queen, none other than Brian May himself is its patron.
"The Jess Grant Celebration charity has been set up in memory of an inspirational, brave, positive, beautiful young lady who always met the world with a smile," a piece by Anita and dad Kevin, 52, on charity's website reads.
"We are so proud and honoured to be the parents of Jess.
"It was music that helped Jess cope with the three and a half years of gruelling treatments and operations she faced after being diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer, in September 2014.
"Even on the darkest days Jess would always want to play and listen to music and as she said to her music therapist Clare: 'When I'm feeling sad I just play some music and it changes my mood.'
"We miss her so much. In Jess' memory we would now like to raise money for other children suffering from medical conditions.
"Inspired by Jess, the charity will focus on supporting organisations and individuals in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire by funding the provision of music therapy."
For more information about the Jess Grant Celebration charity and JessFest, visit the charity's website here.
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