Parents pay tribute to teenager Holly, who passed away aged 19

By Sam Hughes in Local People

THE family of a teenager from Bere Alston, who sadly died last week after a year-long battle with a brain tumour, have expressed their thanks to the community who have shown them unwavering support.

Nineteen-year-old Holly Dunn passed away peacefully at home last Tuesday afternoon, surrounded by her loved ones. She was diagnosed in January 2016 with a Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) — a grade four brain tumour in a position that made surgery extremely risky.

After chemotherapy and radiotherapy, the family were told earlier this month there was nothing more doctors could do for Holly, so they made her as comfortable as possible for the time she had left.

Her parents, Gary and Sally, have been overwhelmed with the support they have received from friends, colleagues, medical and support staff and the community of Bere Alston and further afield throughout Holly’s illness and after the news of her passing last week.

Sally said: ‘We were all in the room together when she went. We were all very close by. If it was at night and we were upstairs, we would have been too far away to get there in time. It was the best way it could have been really. She was so brave. She never, never complained, not once throughout the whole thing.

‘She just lived her life and got on with it. Even when she was diagnosed, the day we came out of the hospital and we knew what it was and she realised she would have to have all the radiotherapy and chemotherapy, anyone else would be thinking “how am I going to cope?” but she just said “Well I’ve got to get on with it” and that was it.’

They described Holly as happy, smiley and fun-loving. They said they had taught her to be questioning but polite and she had an ‘incredible sense’ of right and wrong.

‘She had amazing empathy skills. She couldn’t bear anybody being in pain or upset and she couldn’t bear injustice. She stood up for herself when she had to — she had a really good strength of character,’ said Sally.

While undergoing her treatment, Holly finished her BTEC courses at school, gaining distinctions, and held down three jobs, including at Bere Peninsula Pharmacy and the village post office, to fund her love of buying make-up.

Sally and Gary expressed their gratitude to Holly’s boyfriend of more than three years Matt, who had stood by her the entire time.

Gary said: ‘He was brilliant. When she was diagnosed she had to go into the hospital a lot and he was in every day and sat with her. He spent a lot of time with her and especially in the last few months he would come over to sit with her and held her hand while she was asleep.’

They also thanked the many health care providers that gave assistance and care over the course of Holly’s illness and expressed gratitude to the community for the incredible support they have received.

Gary said: ‘We have had some fantastic help. We have just started calling it ‘the Holly effect’ now, with people just wanting to do things for us. Sally raised more than £6,000 running the London Marathon — some of that was because she was doing the marathon but we are in no doubt that the majority of that was just because people were trying to show their support for Holly.

‘Lots of people have turned up with food for us, which is great as it was always the last thing on our minds to think about cooking.’

Sally added: ‘We had lots of people popping around to see her. In one day I think we had around 18 people in and out throughout the day. As I was holding the door open to let people out, more people would walk in. It was chaos at times, but organised chaos.

‘We’ve had amazing support. The whole community has been outstanding. We couldn’t have wanted for a better community really. Even from when she was diagnosed we had floods of people for months wanting to help but there was nothing that they could do. We had lots of people dropping off food. One day we opened the door to a massive food parcel with everything we could have asked for in it and it was just what we needed when we couldn‘t get to the shops.

‘The whole nightmare situation was made a lot easier with everybody’s help and support. I found the messages from people a huge comfort. I would sit in bed at night and take the time to look through all the messages people had sent and I found it a huge comfort — and they still are, the messages haven’t stopped.’

The family are currently in the process of building a small enclosed garden in the grounds of their house in Bere Alston, which they are calling ‘Holly’s Secret Garden’. Having cleared some trees, they have found an opening where they discovered a rockery and several Holly plants growing. They intend to place a bench, plants, trees, water feature and a sculpture, to hold Holly’s ashes, in the garden for them to use in the future.

A funeral service will be held for Holly next Thursday (June 1) at Weston Mill Crematorium at 2.45pm followed by an afternoon tea at Bere Alston Bowling Club from 5pm. They have asked for family flowers only and if anyone wants to contribute anything they are asking for perennial shrubs or preferably a donation to Holly’s Secret Garden.

Please let Sally or Gary know beforehand if you wish to attend the service and cream tea.

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