Canberra native Daniela Dwyer was passionate about sport and lived life with a sense of purpose and intoxicating vibrancy.
After graduating from the University of Canberra, ‘Dee’, as she was affectionately known, went into an industry befitting her personality, starting her career in event management at the National Gallery.
From there she went from one side of Australia to the other, ending up in Perth.
Sport was always vital in Dee’s life, and she was known for competing in half marathons and triathlons.
When she was 33 years old, she had the world at her feet. She was fit and healthy, but warning signs of what was to come were starting to emerge.
She had encountered migraines since her teenage years, and these were starting to become more frequent. She was also becoming unusually tired.
In May 2021, Dee’s right foot unexpectedly faltered on the footpath. With stroke-like symptoms, she sought the advice of a GP. She was cleared of a stroke but was sent for an MRI.
That scan delivered the worst possible news. She was diagnosed with brain cancer – three tumours, which were all inoperable.
Dee, along with her family and friends, were understandably shattered. As they dealt with the enormity of the situation and the shock, the tears and the fears, her support team galvanised into action.
As they searched far and wide for answers to help Dee, they came across Professor Sudha Rao and her research into treating brain cancer at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research Berghofer Institute.
They also encountered mind-numbingly meaningless bureaucracy, and were shocked to find that treatments had gone relatively unchanged for 30 years.
And while these things made the world feel that it was standing still, Dee’s tumours were spreading, and the breakthroughs associated with Professor Rao’s research were too late for her.
Tragically, Dee passed away in Canberra at 34 years old in March 2022, only 11 months after her diagnosis.
The experience shattered everybody who knew Dee. How could this happen to such a vibrant young woman who was ready to take on the world?
But the energy she demonstrated in life is now a lasting legacy.
Dee’s partner Taylor and parents Luisa and Kevin established the Daniela Dwyer Foundation, which aims to change the approach to diagnosing and treating cancer patients.
The foundation has been supported by the QIMR Berghofer Research Institute, where Daniela’s blood samples provided invaluable information for Professor Rao’s groundbreaking liquid biopsy testing regime.
The foundation’s first goal is to raise $150,000, which will go towards supporting Professor Rao’s work. So far, since its launch in January, it has raised almost $40,000.
Fittingly, since sport played such an important part in Dee’s life, much of the fundraising is focused on sporting events.
Dee’s sister Natalie and her partner Cameron Rettke, along with friend Stephanie Way, ran the half marathon in this month’s Canberra Marathon Festival to raise funds and awareness for DDF.
“Having completed numerous running events herself, my sister Dee was my inspiration to run my first half marathon on Sunday,” Natalie said.
“I know she would be proud of me every step of the way. Running in honour of my sister is a tribute to her strength, and also a promise to continue her legacy through the Daniela Dwyer Foundation.”
Dee’s friend Johnny Taylor raised over $6700 for the foundation, travelling from Perth to compete in the full marathon.
“Taking part in the marathon and helping to raise funds for DDF is an easy decision knowing the work Daniela’s family have put into it,” Johnny said.
“Knowing that the funds are going to such a crucial and worthy cause makes it all the more rewarding contributing to what the foundation is seeking to achieve. I know Dee would be so proud of everyone with the work and effort being put into it.”
And this is only the beginning: the foundation will be continuing its fundraising efforts and hopes to raise even more money towards brain cancer research.
The ultimate aim, of course, is to encourage early intervention and raise funds to make a difference in the way brain cancer, or any cancer, is treated. Dee’s loved ones want to ensure that, in the future, no other family has to endure the frustration and heartache that they have gone through.
For further information, follow the link to the Daniela Dwyer Foundation.