A COURAGEOUS young woman who is battling a brain tumour will celebrate her 21st birthday today alongside the ‘incredible’ nurses and doctors who are treating her.
Student Kate Munford saw her world turned upside down last year when she became unwell.
The 21-year-old of Whitelea Road in Kilmacolm has since undergone major surgery and endured rounds of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
The former Clydeview Academy pupil has remained upbeat throughout her treatment, refusing to let it get her down.
And although she will spend her birthday at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre, Kate says the staff will make sure she has a day to remember.
Her family, including mum Sandra and sister Beth also pulled out all the stops to mark the occasion by organising a special trip to London with help from Virgin Trains.
Kate said: “I don’t mind going to the Beatson on my birthday as they will make a big deal about it.
“The staff there have been absolutely amazing.”
Kate, who is studying psychology at the University of the West Scotland, suddenly took ill last year.
She said: “I was always happy and healthy so it came as a complete shock.
“They said the tumour could have been there my whole life, they just don’t know.
“I had been getting a lot of headaches and have always suffered from migraines.
“But in March last year the headaches got so bad that I could barely lift my head up.”
Kate made an appointment with her optician who immediately realised something was seriously wrong.
She added: “They said there was something strange at the back of my eye and sent me to Inverclyde Royal.
“When I got there they did a CT scan and they found something on the scan.”
Kate then spent two and a half weeks undergoing treatment at the Southern General in Glasgow and had FOUR operations.
She said: “I had to get a drain put in my head and four litres of fluid came out.
“Because of the tumour, the fluid couldn’t get to where it was supposed to go so it became trapped.”
Kate’s mum Sandra, 52, who works as a classroom assistant, says the illness was a big blow to the family as Kate’s dad Bryan passed away suddenly seven years ago after suffering a heart attack at the age of 41.
She said: “We lost their dad very suddenly and they have coped remarkably well, only to be hit by this.
“We were just getting our lives together after losing Bryan then this happened.
“She’s too nice a girl for this to happen to but she has coped so well.
“She has her dad’s personality — very outgoing, friendly, funny and kind.
“When Kate was diagnosed I couldn’t quite take it in.”
Surgeons managed to remove 80 per cent of Kate’s brain tumour, which had been pressing against her eyes.
After the op, Kate was referred to the Beatson, where she has received radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
Kate said: “Dr Allan James, my oncologist, was brilliant.
“I had kept wanting to ask the question if I was going to die.
“When I did he said ‘no, you will live and you will live well, it’s my job to keep you well’.”
Kate has endured over six weeks of radiotherapy and has been taking chemo tablets for nine months.
She said: “I just get on with things — that’s how I cope.
“The radiotherapy shrinks the tumour and seals it so it can’t spread.
“It’s worked so far, as the tumour has shrunk, and we are now hoping that the cancerous cells are gone.
“The next scan will hopefully give us a clearer picture.”
To celebrate her daughter’s 21st, Sandra organised a trip to London a few weeks ago and was blown away by the VIP treatment they received from Virgin Trains.
Sandra said: “I contacted Virgin to ask them to help me plan a surprise for Kate and I’ve been overwhelmed by their generosity.
“All I really wanted was a balloon on her seat and maybe an upgrade but they went above and beyond.
“They arranged a champagne reception in the first class lounge on our return, upgraded our seats and sent Kate gift cards to the value of £350.
“It was so lovely and really kind of them.”
Kate said the city break was a fantastic way to celebrate her birthday.
She added: “They even said ‘happy birthday Kate’ over the tannoy system.”
Throughout the last year, Kate has received support from countless people especially her younger sister Beth, 18.
She says she will also be forever indebted to the nurses, doctors, surgeons and her optician.
Kate says: “When I went to the hospital they said it was good that my optician had recognised there was a change in my eyes because the change is normal in some people.
“They said she was a very good optician because she caught it.”
Kate said all the staff at the Southern and the Beatson have been ‘amazing’, so much so that she now wants to pursue a career in nursing having been inspired by them.
She said: “Dr James was a great support and Mairi Mackinnon, the specialist nurse, was brilliant.”
Kate is also keen to thank her physiotherapist Paul Kelly from Gourock.
She said: “Before I was diagnosed, Paul told me not to panic but warned me that it probably was going to be a brain tumour.
“He really prepared me for it.”
Kate, who has a part-time job with Tesco, says her colleagues have been a tower of strength too.
She said: “When I went back to work they moved my department. I used to work in the hot deli but I couldn’t have coped with that so they moved me to clothing.
“Everyone in the village has been so kind.”
Meanwhile mum Sandra added that she couldn’t have got through the past year without her best friend Lesley McCabe.
She said: “Lesley has been there for us since we lost Bryan.
“When Kate wasn’t well she came round and stayed with Beth, and Lesley and her daughter Phoebe came to London with us, which was brilliant.”
After finishing her chemo in July, Kate will continue to have regular scans.
She said: “I have to take the chemo tablets until July then I’m going to have a post chemo party.
“I’m going to invite all my family and friends and all the people who have helped me.”