A teenager from West Lancashire, whose life was turned upside down after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, is looking forward to celebrating this Christmas with her family.
Kathryn Taylor, aged 18, from Up Holland, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in September 2021, just as she was about to start her A-Levels at a fashion college in Liverpool. As a result, she had to drop out of college and has spent much of this last year undergoing rigorous treatment, including a stem cell transplant and numerous rounds of intensive chemotherapy.
Kathryn has had to spend long periods in hospital for her treatment, including two six-week stays at The Christie in complete isolation due to the infection risk of her treatment. Much of last Christmas was taken up with hospital visits and treatment - so Kathryn is especially looking forward to this year’s festivities, free from treatment and weekly hospital visits.
Now 8 months after her transplant, Kathryn is in a continued remission but still has regular appointments at The Christie for check-ups and close observation. She is slowly improving after her transplant but still struggles with the lasting side effects of treatment.
Kathryn said: “To say the last year has been a whirlwind would be an understatement. Last year, I went from being a normal teenager celebrating my GCSEs, enjoying my prom, and looking forward to starting my dream college course to being diagnosed with leukaemia. It was a huge shock to us all and a diagnosis that my family and I didn’t expect.
She added: “I don’t think people fully understand the impact treatment has on the patient and their family, during and even after treatment. My diagnosis has affected the whole family, it has been a hard time, but we have all come through it together as a family.
“We have been fortunate enough to receive the support we needed to move on from it all. I cannot fault the incredible support from our team at The Christie, and I don’t think I will ever be able to thank them enough. Despite all the struggles over the past year, the treatment went well, and I am now starting to get back to normal life.”
Kathryn lives with her mum Suzanne, stepdad Howard and 9-year-old brother, Matthew, who have all been a great source of support to her - as has her boyfriend, Josh, who has been constantly by her side throughout the treatment.
She said: “Getting back to ordinary life after such a serious illness has been challenging, but it feels good to be getting life back on track, celebrating how far I have come and picking back up where I left off, whilst having learnt some invaluable lessons along the way. Despite all the negatives that came with my diagnosis, I will be forever grateful for the new mindset it has given me. I can now live my life to the fullest, more determined than ever.”
Recently, Kathryn was delighted to be able to start her A-Levels at St John Rigby College in Wigan after having to delay them a year due to her illness. With the help of Kathryn’s college and a few adaptations, she has been able to start the courses she had hoped for. Although it hasn’t been easy, Kathryn is grateful for the opportunity to get on with her A-Levels and for the distraction that her studies have given her.
Kathryn said: “Starting college has been a big struggle. It has been tough to integrate back into a normal routine. My team at college has been so supportive in helping me to get back to my studies. Starting my A-Levels has given me something else to focus on other than leukaemia.”
Since starting college, Kathryn’s studies have been going well, and she eventually hopes to become a lawyer or an accountant. In the meantime, she is pleased life at home is returning to normality in between her hospital visits.
Kathryn added: “I am very grateful for the support and treatment I have received at The Christie over the past year. It has been an incredibly tough year, but I believe that I am a better person for it. I now aim to live life without any regrets, surrounded by my friends and family. What better time to do that than at Christmas?
“Last Christmas was spent feeling tired from my treatment and anxious about what was to come. We were at the hospital 3 days a week for check-ups, and we had no idea at what point I would have to go back into hospital for my transplant. So, Christmas was pretty much cancelled. This year we intend to celebrate as a family, and I’m really looking forward to it. Christmas is going to be very special this year.”