An Aberdeen teen who was given a devastating diagnosis at 12 is now cancer-free and “throwing herself” back into the activities she loves.
When Amy MacDonald was told she had a rare form of Non Hodgkin Lymphoma, a type of cancer, doctors gave her just five days to live as her organs started shutting down.
In the weeks that followed she was placed in an induced coma, battled through six cycles of chemotherapy and received 10 blood transfusions.
The now 15-year-old has returned to school and is back pursuing her passions.
She is encouraging people to step up and help other youngsters in her position – as around 140 Scottish children are diagnosed with cancer every year.
Airlifted to hospital
Amy was found to have Peripheral T-cell Lymphoma, a cancer that affects white blood cells and causes the glands, or lymph nodes, to swell up.
Some patients also suffer fevers, unexplained weight loss and excessive night sweats.
At one point, Amy’s condition was so severe she had to be airlifted to hospital in Edinburgh for treatment.
During this time, she spent a total of five weeks in intensive care as she fought the illness.
But in early 2019 doctors said she was cancer-free – and she celebrated her 13th birthday in style with support from charity Cancer Research UK.
Amy was named the VIP starter for the Aberdeen Race for Life, ringing a bell and cheering on the 1,500 runners who signed up.
Altogether they raised more than £100,000 in crucial donations for the cause.
‘She’s absolutely fearless’
Amy has been able to once again immerse herself in all the activities she previously loved.
As well as returning to Lochside Academy, where she just started S4, she has found herself back in the saddle – horse-riding and scaling indoor climbing walls.
Mum Kirsty, 38, said: It’s brilliant that Amy is back at school and with her friends.
“Her love of being at school far outweighs any anxieties around the risk of being there.
“She has been taking on the challenge of indoor climbing in her stride – she’s absolutely fearless and it was amazing to see her stepping off a high outdoor platform and freefalling as part of an outdoor assault course challenge recently.
“She also horse rides every week which is wonderful. Horses are at one with her, and she is with them. They have a real understanding.
“I’m so proud of her.”
Treatment effects continue
While Amy was declared cancer-free, the long-lasting effects from her intensive treatment can still take a toll on her everyday life.
Last year, at the height of the pandemic, she had to spend 19 weeks shielding away from her friends and family due to the health issues she has developed.
Kirsty added: “Amy has come along a great deal since her treatment. And it’s thanks to research that she is here today.
“There’s still so much to do. Some people think that when the kids ring the end of treatment bell in hospital, that’s it all over. But it’s not.
“While her cancer treatment has ended, the disease and the treatment continues to have a knock on effect.
“We need to fund research so that no child has to go through what Amy has been through. Her cancer experience will stay with us for a lifetime.”
Give up clothes for life-saving research
Amy is now backing the new Give Up Clothes For Good campaign, being run by TK Maxx in support of Cancer Research UK (CRUK).
Members of the public are being urged to donate any clothes and homeware they no longer use to their nearest TK Maxx store.
When the items are sold in CRUK’s shops, each bag could raise up to £25 to help fund research.
Kirsty said: “Amy absolutely loves to shop – her wardrobe is bursting at the seams!
“I will certainly be having a good clear out at home to find clothes and things to donate and we hope our experience will inspire others in and around Aberdeen to do the same.”
Linda Summerhayes from CRUK said: “Cancer in children and young people is different to cancer in adults – from the types of cancer to the impact of treatment and the long-term side effects survivors often experience.
“We want to help ensure more people under the age of 25 in Scotland, and across the UK, survive cancer with a good quality of life.
“That’s why we hope as many people as possible will show their support.”
For more information visit cruk.org/childrenandyoungpeople