Kirsty – Her Story
Kirsty Harrison from Midlothian, who is just 19 years old, stopped breathing on a recent night out with her friends.
“I never ask for my dad but I did this time, it was so frightening I just couldn’t breathe, my dad came immediately and I was taken to hospital. I can’t remember much about it. It really worried everyone’
Kirsty was diagnosed with a brain tumour on 16th July 2002. It is situated in an awkward place in the centre of her brain and is inoperable.
“They shrink the brain tumour but I can’t have anything else done” says Kirsty.
“I keep having problems, my body goes into meltdown. I stopped breathing on a plane recently on my way home from Spain. Can you imagine how scary that is?”
“I have a shunt which is a drain in my head, which pumps the fluid out of my brain to stop it building up and causing headaches. I’m angry as I never wanted a shunt and they put it in last year. It’s causes me more pain than anything, the surgeon doesn’t know why. However, it’s keeping me alive, so I have to put up with it.”
Kirsty first came to Tracy Ann House (Youth Cancer Trust) in 2004 and has been at least 8 times since. She usually flies down from Scotland with fellow youngsters from the parent support group CCLASP.
“I have been told I can’t fly anymore, which means I will have to get the train down and my parents will have to come with me to make sure I’m ok”
Kirsty was diagnosed when she was still at primary school.
“I was very tired, had no strength to do my school work, I was falling asleep and kept wandering off in lessons. The teacher reported it to my parents who had also noticed my strange behaviour. I went to the doctors on the Monday and within 24 hours I was in hospital in theatre.
I was bullied at school because I had to have time off with headaches. I had no friends at school. It was really hard as they didn’t understand my behaviour and just thought I was strange. However, a popular girl in my class who lived in my street was told about my cancer, so I got some support from her.
I couldn’t talk, walk – I don’t remember much about that time.”
Last year Kirsty was rushed into hospital. She was meant to go to work on a job placement.
“I woke up one morning and couldn’t move my body… no ability to move, no strength. People were phoning me and I couldn’t answer my phone. My dad came back home and found me hanging off the bed; he carried me to the Doctors. With every bump I screamed in agony. I didn’t know what was going on, nobody could touch me, I felt frail and in agony. The doctor didn’t know what to do so they called an ambulance, I apparently said no – I’m going home, which they let me and the ambulance came to get me from my house. I was in hospital for three and half months, they thought I was going to die.
When I was in hospital I caught loads of infections, which were picked up from a doctor who hadn’t washed his hands. Quite unbelievable really.”
YCT has helped me so much outside of actually being at Tracy Ann House.
It has really helped my confidence so much. I am always looking forward to coming again. As soon as I get home from Bournemouth I start planning my next trip down.
My parents had to come down with me this time – they stayed elsewhere in Bournemouth.”
ADD PICTURE ON BOAT
Kirsty recently organised a fundraiser with the help of her parents (Colin and Jenny) and a family friend who runs an Indian restaurant. They raised a whopping £1345 for the charity. The restaurant owner donated half of the proceeds on one day from all the buffet meals and takeaways served.
Kirsty’s parents arrived at YCT on the Friday to pick her up and spoke about how YCT has helped not only Kirsty but the whole family.
“Kirsty does things here at YCT she wouldn’t normally do at home, because most of the people are able-bodied up there and she lacks confidence when she’s with them. Here she is with people who are the same as her. When I speak to her on the phone and she sounds so different, so upbeat. She wouldn’t go to water sports at home. She feels safe here. People try to hurry her at home but here there is no pressure.” Says Jenny (Kirsty’s mum)
“YCT is beneficial to all the family as we can have time to relax. We know she’s safe and the holiday gives her such a boost
“Kirsty has just lost 2 friends who recently died from brain tumours; it really affected Kirsty as one of them died very suddenly. She doesn’t talk to us as she tries to protect us. She goes to a youth group and for counselling.” Says Kirsty’s father, Colin.
“We just deal with it ourselves, we don’t talk to anyone else just each other and we go to Maggie’s Centre for a balling session
People don’t understand that Kirsty has cancer as there are no physical symptoms. You have to spend time with her to see what she goes through – the problems with her speech, balance, memory, communication…
People say that her problems are just that of a ‘normal teenager’ but although we treat her normally she has cancer and that brings so many problems for her, which ‘normal’ teenagers just don’t’ experience. For instance she won’t travel on a bus on her own unless she knows the route because of her poor memory. Once she collapsed on the floor of a bus and people literally stepped over her leaving her lying on the floor. We couldn’t believe that people could be so awful to just leave her lying there.
She gets so excited when she receives the dates for YCT, really hyper, then the texting starts and she’s on Bebo and Facebook meeting up with the rest of her friends talking about what they will do when they are at YCT. She knew the whole group from Scotland as they have been to YCT together before. When she comes back her confidence is so high”
We are so proud of everything Kirsty has achieved with her life.
Kirsty was a ‘gift child’. We couldn’t have children and Kirsty was the result of fertility treatment. To us she is more than a gift she is priceless.”
The Youth Cancer Trust would like to thank Kirsty for allowing us to interview her for this story