ST. LOUIS (AP) – The half-sister of Grammy-winning rapper Nelly died Thursday at a St. Louis hospital after a long battle with leukemia, the artist’s publicist said.

Jacqueline “Jackie” Donahue had been diagnosed with leukemia on March 29, 2001. The cancer was in remission for nearly two years before she suffered a relapse, prompting Nelly to arrange a number of bone marrow drives. A match was never found.

Publicist Jane Higgins said Donahue, a 31-year-old mother of two, worked as Nelly’s stylist until her illness forced her to leave that position.

Nelly was in Austin, Texas, for a concert Wednesday night and flew back to St. Louis Thursday to be with his family.

A spokeswoman for Austin Layne Mortuary said funeral arrangements were pending.

In March 2003, Nelly and his half-sister formed a campaign called “Jes Us 4 Jackie” to find donors for Donahue and others, and to raise awareness about bone marrow donations.

Donahue’s family said in a statement they were “deeply saddened” by her death and offered their thanks for those who had supported her and the bone marrow drives.

“We are very proud of her efforts to educate and raise awareness about the disease and the need for African-Americans to join the National Donor Registry,” the family said.

“She will always be remembered for her loving spirit, energy and unshakable faith.”

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