Cancer survivor hopes to meet life-saving donor
A ‘ BRAVE and inspirational’ Kinlochleven woman hopes to meet the bone marrow donor who saved her life as she celebrates being cancer free for 10 years.
Kathleen, or Kat as she is known, was a pupil at Kinlochleven High School in 2004 when she was diagnosed with leukaemia, aged 13.
She said: ‘We were going on a school walk to the dam when I started to feel really ill and I couldn’t breath. I was taken off the hill that day because of it, but I had been ill for a while. I was tired all the time and fell asleep in class.
‘I used to be sick in the bathroom at home and then blame it on my brothers when mum found out.’
That day Kat was rushed to the doctors where she was told to go home, pack a bag and immediately go to Glasgow’s Sick Children’s Hospital.
‘I didn’t have a clue what was going on. It was like a bombshell had just been dropped on my family.’
Kat was in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant and was kept in hospital for eight months. In December 2004, her brother Roddy, who was 15 at the time, volunteered as a donor and was found to be a match.
‘I think the whole experience was worse for Roddy, but he was willing because he knew how important it was,’ said Kat.
But in 2006 Kat’s world was turned upside down again: ‘I was in the swing park with my friend and the way he pushed me bent my back.
‘I knew straight away something wasn’t right. I couldn’t stand, I couldn’t sit and I couldn’t walk,’ she said.
Kat was flown by helicopter back to Glasgow where she was told she had relapsed and was diagnosed with leukaemia for a second time, this time with a tumor in her lower back.
Sadly Kat’s body had rejected her brother’s bone marrow and she once again found herself fighting for her life.
Kat was kept in hospital again and put on the bone marrow transplant waiting list as none of her others siblings were a match.
Kat said: ‘I missed everyone at home so much. I just wanted to end it all. I was so low and had totally given up. There was a point where I thought I am never going to get home.’
One night Kat’s family were called in when doctors did not think she would make it through the night.
Her close friend Seonaid Nicoll recalled: ‘I remember getting the text saying she wasn’t going to make it and just thought, “Oh, my god, I can’t do this.”
‘She was very very ill during her second time in hospital.’
Thankfully, though, in April 2007, an anonymous donor came forward for Kat’s second attempt at a transplant, which was successful.
And on Saturday April 22, Kat will be celebrating 10 years all clear.
To give something back to the hospital, the 26-year- old is organising a fundraising party in Chillers at the Ice Factory, Kinlochleven.
She said: ‘I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the nurses and doctors of Glasgow Children’s Hospital. They were there for me when I needed them the most.
‘I want to help others in the same position I was in and this is the reason for my JustGiving page.’
On the night, Kat will have food, cocktails, a raffle – and she will be shaving her head.
Kat is also having a table top sale at Kinlochleven Community Centre on Saturday April 8. She said: ‘My friend Cheryl Lawrie has been a great help in collecting things for the sale. She has already raised a lot of money for me and the children’s hospital before.’
But Kat’s big hopes for the night is to meet her anonymous donor, the person she says ‘literally saved my life’.
She said: ‘I have no idea what I will say to them yet but it will be an amazing opportunity.’
Kat, who says she will never be able to work, still has on-going issues. She has had one hip replacement and is waiting on the other.
She explained: ‘I just have to take each day as it comes. I can’t really make plans.’
Close friend Seonaid said: ‘Kat is go-getting. This hasn’t held her back. She really is a very, very brave woman.’
So far Kat has raised more than £1,000. To donate to Kat’s fundraiser go to www.justgiving. com/ fundraising/ Kathleen-Maclean4?utm_ source=Facebook
Kathleen Maclean, 26, will have been clear of cancer for 10 years in April.