At just 11-years-old, Kirsty Harrison was given news which would be devastating and terrifying to someone twice her age.
She had a brain tumour and there was no way to remove it. But Kirsty, from Penicuik, refused to let the shattering diagnosis news stop her living life to the full.
Kirsty was dignosed with an inoperable brain tumour in July 2002 aged 11. And far from dwelling on her condition, she has gone on to become a clinical support worker at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, and is now looking forward to her wedding in June 2020.
Now 28-year-old, she has told her story to show her support for Cancer Research UK.
She was diagnosed with a brain tumour in July 2002, after her parents and teachers noticed her behaving strangely and falling asleep in class.
Her mum and dad, Colin and Jenny, were devastated when they were told she had a tumour located in a part of the brain called the tectal plate. Doctors told them the tumour wouldn’t respond to chemotherapy or radiotherapy, and it is too deep set in Kirsty’s brain for surgery, so there is no treatment.
The tumour causes Kirsty to suffer from hydrocephalus, or fluid on the brain, which is kept in check by a programmable ‘shunt’ that is implanted in her brain to drain the cerebrospinal fluid to her stomach.
“Because of where the tumour is, nothing can be done to remove it,” said Kirsty.
“The hydrocephalus affected my optic nerves and I still have blind spots in my vision and can be very wobbly on my legs.
“My speech or legs sometimes just stop working and I tend to fall over at times.
“I also have short-term memory loss which can be quite a problem at times and I have constant headaches, which is very frustrating.”
But despite everything, Kirsty maintains a positive outlook. True to her “I can do this” motto, Kirsty took part in Cancer Research UK’s Race For Life in Holyrood Park on June 24 – just weeks after emergency surgery to replace her shunt which had become blocked.
Determined to complete the 10K event, she made it round the course on crutches with support from her friends and her puppy Bella, raising over £400 for the charity.
She said: “I’ve lost a lot of friends I have met in hospital and you can’t help but think ‘Am I next??’ but you have to go on.
“I am not the kind of person to sit back and let my illness take over. I have learned that you have to live for today, you never know what is round the corner.”
Now the 28-year-old is looking forward to planning her wedding to partner David (27), after he got down on one knee at the top of the Rock of Gibraltar on June 29. The couple are set to marry in Gibraltar on June 27, 2020, in the historic King’s Chapel.