She was a miracle baby and wasn’t expected to live past five years of age. Last month Gemma Seward continued to defy the odds, celebrating her 40th birthday.
Gemma’s birthday bash kicked off with a lunch with her beloved Penrith Panthers, before moving on to a huge party at her parents home in Glossodia with friends and family from across the country.
There was a lot to celebrate for Gemma, who has been a fighter since birth.
When Gemma was 22-months-old she was diagnosed with Leukaemia and spent the next four years receiving treatment.
Doctors gave her a 50 per cent chance of surviving beyond her fifth birthday. The radiation treatment shrunk Gemma’s pituitary gland and stunted her growth.
She’s also survived two mini-strokes, battled thyroid cancer and suffers from a rare liver condition. In October 2011 Gemma had a heart attack and if it wasn’t for the quick thinking of her mum, Kay Jackson, she might not have reached her 35th birthday.
“I’m glad I’m still here,” Gemma said.
“I get to experience everything and watch my friends and family grow.”
Gemma said there was over 180 friends and family invited to her 40th birthday bash, and said she had guests coming from all over NSW and interstate to help celebrate the milestone.
Except for a bad dose of bronchitis in recent times, and an ear infection, Gemma’s health has been in good shape.
“I wasn’t supposed to be here, to make it to 40,” Gemma said.
“I have seen close family friends pass away suddenly, it’s been terrible … it really makes me feel lucky to be here.”
Gemma is a proud fan of the Penrith Panthers NRL squad and goes to every home game.
She also talks to players on a regular basis through tweeting and texting.
Almost the entire first grade squad gathered to help celebrate her birthday lunch on May 25, which followed a training session at the club.
She was extra thrilled when some of the players attended her birthday party in Glossodia, including former Panther Sandor Earl.
Sandor was Gemma’s favourite player when he was among the ranks a few years ago, and the two have remained close since he left.
“They are all so supportive and wonderful. I want to thank them all for being so kind. It was great to see all the boys and watch them train.”