THE day after an operation to remove part of her right leg, Katie Pake started gruelling physiotherapy sessions.
“It was unbelievably painful, and she screamed and cried, but she did it,” says the teenager’s mum, Carol.
“That’s Katie, though. There is courage there, and strength always. She’s an inspiration and we’re very proud of her.”
Katie, 13, is one of five fantastic finalists in the 2020 Glasgow Times Young Scotswoman of the Year award, in association with St Enoch Centre.
Over the next few days, we will be profiling each of the contenders for the title, which will be decided by public vote and revealed on April 29 along with the winner of our Scotswoman of the Year trophy, in a livestreamed event on social media.
Katie says: “I’m really honoured to be on the shortlist. When I heard, I just said – wow and why me? But it’s amazing.”
Katie, who is from Glenrothes, was nine years old in 2017 when she complained of a painful knee that was preventing her from swimming.
An active girl from early childhood, she mastered cycling without stabilisers when she was four and signed up for Raith Rovers Girls and Ladies Football Club when she was seven. She followed her elder brother Cameron’s team and joined in training drills when she could.
After visiting her GP and a round of tests, the family were shocked when Katie was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, the most common type of bone cancer in UK children.
Carol and her husband Grant, were terrified. Katie, however, took it all in her stride.
“She was upset, of course, but immediately she wanted to know exactly what was happening to her, how it would be treated and what it meant,” says Carol.
“She didn’t want to be told anything but the truth and she refused to give up.”
Initial chemotherapy did not work, and the cancer spread to her spine and hips. A new, intensive treatment managed to eradicate it from those areas, but it remained in her shin and thigh.
“At that point, she knew she was fighting for her life,” says Carol. “But still she wanted the pathway explained, she wanted to know what was happening.”
Two days before her 10th birthday, doctors removed the middle section of her right leg and reattached her foot and ankle, back to front, to her thigh to create a new knee joint.
The op, known as rotationplasty, made it easier for her to wear a prosthetic limb which she took to, says Carol, like “a duck to water”. Doctors have also confirmed she is now free of cancer.
“She worked so hard, doing the physio, keeping cheerful, even making the doctors and nurses in the hospital laugh,” adds Carol.
Before the operation, Katie wrote ‘please recycle’ on her leg, in the hope doctors would be able to use tissue from her amputated limb to help other children with cancer.
Since then, Katie has raised thousands of pounds for charity and has made it her mission help others.
She is also a champion swimmer, winning medals in both mainstream and disability events, and is a hopeful for the Paralympics.
Katie trains four times a week with Carnegie Swimming Club, and she met one of her heroes, Commonwealth gold medal-winning swimmer Hannah Miley to launch Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life in Scotland, which encourages people to raise money to battle the disease by taking part in 5K and 10K events.
“Katie is a pretty special kid and I look forward to seeing where her career takes her and where she goes with swimming,” said Hannah at the launch.
Katie looks aghast when it is suggested she is a superhero.
“I’m just a survivor,” she says.
“People say, poor you, but why poor me? There are lots of children worse off than me. I just want to make a difference and help others.”
Katie is shortlisted for the 2020 YoungSWOTY award alongside Roseanna Campbell, Amanda Amaeshi, Lusia Steele and Juliana-Sweeney-Baird. To find out more about all the finalists and to register your vote visit www.glasgowtimes.co.uk/young-swoty-2020.
Voting will close at 5pm on Friday, April 2.