Congratulations to Carnegie swimmer Katie Pake, awarded STV's Child of courage.
Being given a VIP tour of Abbey Road studios by Lorraine Kelly and bumping into her idol Sharleen Spiteri - it’s no wonder 12-year-old Katie Pake was overwhelmed with emotion.
The queen of daytime telly and the Texas singer joined forces to surprise the brave schoolgirl with her Pride of Scotland award in London last month.
Katie, from Coaltown of Balgonie, Fife, was left speechless when she found her STV Children’s Appeal Child of Courage trophy hidden in Sharleen’s guitar case.
The Auchmuty High School pupil, who lost most of her leg to bone cancer, was even more taken aback when the Texas frontwoman presented her with a bright pink signed vintage guitar.
Katie, who is on a mission to help fellow child cancer patients and has raised thousands with her inspirational campaigning, says her day out with Lorraine and Sharleen was one of the best of her life.
The talented swimmer, who had her foot and ankle reattached to her thigh back to front to create a new knee joint, said: “I still can’t quite believe it happened.
My mum and I came out of our London hotel and Lorraine Kelly was standing there. She asked if I would like a tour of Abbey Road studios. I said yes immediately as I taught myself how to play Beatles songs during lockdown.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes when the lights went up in one of the studios and Sharleen Spiteri was there. She waved me in and we chatted for a while. I told her I had been listening to her music on the way down to London.
“She told me to look in her guitar case and that’s when I found the award. I was totally overwhelmed. I told her I didn’t deserve it but she said I did and that I also deserved a guitar.
“She wrote a message on it saying - ‘It’s lovely to give this to you. I hope you write many a song on it. Sharleen. Yet again I was speechless.”
Katie, who is doing everything she can to raise awareness of childhood cancer and is an ambassador for the Love Oliver charity, added: “It’s humbling, amazing and unexpected to be one of the first people to win a Pride of Scotland award and I will treasure the memories of my day in London forever.
“But I only do what I do to pay back those who have helped me and my family when we really needed it. I don’t know how we would have got through all this without them. No one should have to face cancer alone.”
Sharleen, who is patron of children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent, said: “The influence she has on other people, when maybe they are going through things, they think are difficult. They can look at Katie, the way she is and how she just gets on with it. It was a great honour and a real pleasure to give her the award.”
Lorraine Kelly added: “Katie is incredible. I am so impressed by her courage, determination and how big hearted she is. Nothing stands in her way.
“It was such a joy to surprise her as she had no idea at all. She was speechless and so thrilled that she was going to Abbey Road. She’d been asking her mum all during the journey to London if they could squeeze in a visit but was told there just wasn’t time. So she was really excited to get a VIP tour and of course to meet Sharleen.”
Keen swimmer Katie’s parents took her to the GP when she complained a sore knee was affecting her performance in the pool and tests revealed she was suffering from osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer.
When intensive chemotherapy failed to eradicate the tumour, doctors told her parents she had a 20 per cent chance of
survival. Their only option was to amputate her leg, in an eight-hour operation two days before her 10th birthday.
Before the life-saving operation, inspirational Katie wrote “Please recycle” on her leg, in the hope the cancer tissue could be used in research.
Since the amputation has been raising awareness of childhood cancer and raising money for a host of charities including CLASP, Cancer Research UK and Love Oliver.
The year two pupil, who is in remission, takes off her artificial leg to swim and has won gold medals at the junior and senior Scottish Disability Sport National Swimming Championships and earlier this month took part in her first international competition as the youngest competitor.
As well as training four times a week in the pool, she plays football, is a wheelchair racer and has just taken up the discus. During lockdown when she couldn’t get in the pool she started to learn the guitar.
From an early age, 12-year-old Katie Pake loved to cycle, climb, and run. She learned quickly and was keen to try anything physical. She mastered cycling without stabilisers when she was four and signed up for Raith Rovers Girls and Ladies Football Club when she was seven. She followed her elder brother Cameron’s team and joined in training drills when she could. Both Pake youngsters played in defence and Katie’s infectious smile was always evident on match days.
Katie joined the Fife Council learn to swim programme at Glenwood HS in Primary 1, after demonstrating total fearlessness wearing her “shark” floating aid and scaring her parents during family pool visits. The Pake children benefitted, as many other Fife youngsters did, from the tuition provided by swimming teacher Keith. It was not long before Katie joined Glenrothes Swimming Club and then moved on to Cardenden Swimming Club. Football and swimming training times clashed, and the energetic young sportswoman retired from football at a very early age to concentrate on swimming.
Katie’s first swimming competition was a baptism of fire. It was a Fife League meet and she was persuaded to enter 25m butterfly with little or no experience of the stroke and only a quick 20 minute introduction from the club coach. Not surprisingly Katie produced an exceptional performance for the team and demonstrated clearly that she thrives on challenge.
Everything changed in April 2017 when Katie was competing and felt a click in her right knee. It turned out not to be a sprain but bone cancer (osteosarcoma) in her right shin. Katie had to stop training immediately in early June, pending biopsies and full body scans. Katie’s chemotherapy started in July 2017 and she was offered three choices – limb saving surgery, amputation above the knee or rotationplasty. At age 9 Katie researched all three options, realising that her career in mainstream sport was about to change dramatically.
- Limb saving surgery was discounted (as the cancer had spread into her thigh, spine and hips). Thankfully, new chemotherapy treatment removed the cancer from her spine and hips.
- Amputation was something Katie considered seriously but, having conducted research, this procedure may have hindered her ability to participate in some sports, including football and running.
- Rotationplasty interested Katie. The process involved removing the part of the leg that has the cancer, turning the lower shin and foot the other way around so that the ankle becomes the new knee joint for a prosthetic leg.
At the time, Jonny Peacock was on Strictly Come Dancing and Katie was in awe of him. Katie also discussed the issue with two amputees. One was a great friend who sadly lost her fight against cancer and the other an individual who lost a leg in a road traffic accident. Katie was determined to
remain active so opted for the rotationplasty procedure following further chemotherapy treatment to kill as much of the cancer in her bones as possible. On 9 February 2018, two days before her 10th birthday, Katie underwent an 8-hour operation in the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh. The day after her surgery, gruelling physiotherapy began. Katie pushed herself to complete all her physio and at times in extreme pain and discomfort due to nerve damage caused by the cancerous bones. Katie’s determination and commitment during this period were exemplary and paved the way for her new start as a talented young sportswoman.
Katie went into remission in March 2018 and focussed on when she could get back in the water. Understandably there were delays due to the healing process. In May 2018 Katie re-joined Cardenden Swimming Club and was overjoyed at being back in the water and using a poolside hoist. Shortly after returning to swimming, Katie was invited to meet Duncan Scott who was promoting the Scottish Swimming Learn to Swim Programme. Katie said goodbye to Duncan and added “I’ll see you in Birmingham”. The 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham are still one of Katie’s goals.
Katie started to fundraise and raise awareness of childhood cancer through Love Oliver, a charity that supports children and their families during treatment of cancer and leukaemia. In June 2018 Katie participated in the Glenrothes Road Running Festival along with her Cardenden swimming club team mates to raise money for Love Oliver. Being in a wheelchair at the time did not faze her and she demonstrated trademark determination and spirit during the 3 mile run.
In August 2018, Katie decided to move to Carnegie Swimming Club, as a steppingstone to realising her ambitions as a competitive swimmer. Katie’s dreams of success and achievement did not stop because of cancer and major surgery, and if at all possible, she was now even more determined.
Katie has always kept in touch with Raith Rovers Girls and Ladies Football Club. When approached by Cancer Research UK to help with their Stand Up 2 Cancer Campaign, Katie jumped at the chance to raise awareness through her love of football. Katie was inducted as a special member of the Raith Rovers Hall of Fame in November 2020 and was honoured to meet former professional footballers Robbie Savage and Dean Saunders with the support of her two favourite Raith Rovers players – Iain Davidson and Kyle Benedictus. Katie also had the chance to meet the Scotland Ladies Football Team and in particular idols Rachel Corsie and Jenny Beattie who are defenders just like Katie.
By this time Katie had teamed up with Disability Sport Fife and started to explore options in Para sport locally and nationally. It was indeed a very special day when Katie and her parents joined the DSF family and within a very short period they have made a very positive impression. Katie is now well established within the Team Fife Para swimming squad and cross trains at Pitreavie Athletics Centre with the Team Fife wheelchair racing squad under the guidance of DSF lead athletics coach Pamela Robson. In 2018 Katie made first appearances at the Scottish Disability Sport junior and senior swimming championships at Grangemouth Sports Complex. Katie’s talents are already very obvious in the Para swimming world where she has much to offer as a competitor and a charismatic young person.
Katie was honoured to be able to support Cancer Research UK again with the Race for Life campaign and she had the massive pleasure of meeting another of her idols, Hannah Miley in Aberdeen in March 2019. Until that chance meeting Katie had been starting in the water because she was unable to dive. Katie had been learning to jump in but struggled with diving. Katie managed to show Hannah one of her first dives, with the aid of someone holding her.
Katie was soon invited to join Scottish Swimming’s Junior Para Swimming Squad in September 2019 at Stirling University. Katie attended sessions once a month for 3 hours and they incorporated land and water training. Katie then received an invitation from Scottish Swimming to be part of their Talent Programme in August 2020. The first session was in September 2020 and will continue monthly for the remainder of the year. Once again exceptional progress by the Fife youngster.
In October 2019, Katie was asked to be part of Scottish Swimming’s Learn to Swim video, inspiring youngsters with disabilities to learn to swim. Katie was honoured to be part of the campaign as she is very keen for learners with disabilities of all abilities to participate in sport, including swimming.
Katie was invited last year to be part of STV’s Children’s Appeal, showcasing Disability Sport Fife and the valuable funding received from the Appeal for local young people with disabilities. Katie went along with six other junior DSF members and support staff for a memorable evening of fun and entertainment plus a personal meeting with Lorraine Kelly.
Katie had the honour of travelling to Sheffield with her swimming club to a mainstream swimming long course event. Katie absolutely loved the experience of competing in a 50m pool. Katie attended the Scottish Disability Sport’s Junior Para Swimming Championships in November 2019 and performed amazingly well, despite being jet lagged from a holiday in Florida. In Florida, Katie had the opportunity of receiving training tips and hints from Liz Johnson, a very successful GB Paralympic Swimmer.
In March 2020, Katie was eligible to enter the National Junior Para Swimming Championships in Sunderland. This was a UK national event and Katie competed in the 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle and 100m backstroke events. As well as smashing her PBs in all strokes, Katie won a bronze medal for 100m backstroke for her age group. Unfortunately, COVID-19 stopped Katie swimming and competing thereafter.
Katie’s immediate goals include representing Scotland at future Commonwealth Games. Whether this is in 2022 or in 2026, this has yet to be determined. Katie’s swimming club returned to the water in September 2020 and she is building up her strength from time lost out of the water. Katie has her sights set on the National Para Swimming Championships in Manchester in January 2021 when hopefully she will qualify to compete in her favoured events.
During lockdown Katie was active as a wheelchair racer on the prom in Kirkcaldy. With her parents she set up a little training circuit with bands in her local park. Weight training and Pilates were also included in her programme as well as swims in a makeshift back garden pool and in open water in the River Tay. Nothing will stand in the way of this determined young girl to be all that she can be in swimming and other sports. Katie is only 12 yet she has had so many challenges to overcome in her short and very full life. With her very caring and supportive family behind her and a strong coaching network in Fife and Scotland, I have no doubt that Katie Pake will be the next Fife swimmer to excel in Para sport. We wish you well Katie.
The young Auchmuty High School pupil was voted the Young Sports Person of the Year at the 2020 Disability Sport Fife Annual Awards
Sources: Daily Record/Scottish Disability Sport