I must be strong for my kids ... former ice queen Katie Scarbrough on the fight of her life
Katie Scarbrough once inspired with powerful sporting talent, as a champion ice skater who competed on an international stage.
Now the Belfast mum is proving a greater inspiration with her irrepressible attitude to battling terminal cancer.
The former figure skater opened her heart to the Belfast Telegraph about a devastating diagnosis which could leave the 31-year-old with just weeks to live.
The British junior ice skating champion – who has two young children – was told by doctors last September that she had just six months left.
But since the moment the shattering news was delivered, the east Belfast woman has moved friends and family with her determination to make the most of life.
The Gilnahirk sportswoman has also inspired thousands of strangers with her drive to raise cash and vital cancer awareness through an online blog detailing her experience of the disease.
Katie now lives in the Staffordshire village of Fradley with her husband Stuart and their two children Sam (8) and Sophie (4).
She was first diagnosed with bowel cancer in June last year – before being told in September the disease had spread beyond control.
Describing the moment she was told her illness was terminal, Katie recalled: "I could see it in the hospital consultant's eyes; he was upset.
"He said he was sorry and explained to Stuart and I that I had a tumour and it was on my perineum, bowel, ovaries and liver. It was devastating."
Then just last month a scan revealed ongoing treatment wasn't working, her liver tumour had grown and the cancer has spread to her bones and back.
Despite this, the young mother decided doing nothing "was not an option".
She's currently going through chemotherapy once a week and maintains a remarkable attitude, while enjoying life with her young family, including trips to Euro Disney and London.
"Until Christmas I was doing normal things, but two days before Christmas Day I started not feeling well," she said.
"At that point I knew in myself that something wasn't right. I didn't need a scan to tell me, but you don't want to believe it, you want to have hope."
Sam and Sophie are aware their mother is unwell and that she is receiving medicine to try and make it better.
A few weeks ago, Katie was told by her medical team that "time is running out" if her latest treatment doesn't work.
"I can't control the cancer going on inside me, but if I can control the symptoms, it can only make me stronger," she said.
"I need to try and stay as normal as possible for my kids and myself. It keeps me positive. I didn't ask to have cancer, but I've got it and I write everything down on my blog about what is happening."
Since beginning her blog last June, Katie has gained online support from people all over the world, including comedian Matt Lucas, and Dr Christian from Channel 4 show Embarrassing Bodies.
Katie said: "There are times when I cry uncontrollably and think I've done something wrong. That goes through your head, but I get it out of my system and find something else to focus on.
"In the last couple of weeks Twitter, Facebook and the blog have taken off and that's what inspires me.
"If anything positive can come out of me having cancer, by raising money for charity and awareness in young people, then that's what I want to do.
"That's what keeps me motivated and going."
Katie is a former British Junior ice-skating champion and a one time Belfast Telegraph young sports person of the year nominee.
She recently paid a dream visit to ITV's Dancing On Ice studio with Stuart and had a good chat with the show's presenter Christine Bleakley.
Meanwhile, family, friends and former school mates from her days at Grosvenor Grammar have rallied to support her cause.
In the last couple of weeks over £2,000 has been raised for Bowel Cancer UK and Cancer Research UK in Katie's name.
A fundraiser is being arranged at Dundonald International Ice Bowl, plus coffee mornings, a frock swap party evening, a Belfast to Dublin Maracycle and a climb up Slieve Gullion.
She doesn't want to frighten other young people with her story, but rather inspire people to be mindful of their health and remember how precious life is.
Online donors hail bravery
- Your strength and resolve says it all. With our love, Mum & Dad.”
- “You are an inspiration and a light to the world. Sharing your story is a gift to us all. Keep shining, you're a star xx.”
- “I just recently heard about your blog and want you to know how inspirational + amazing you and your young family are.”
- “Katie, you have such strength and positivity.
- “You will never know how many hearts you are touching xx.”
Follow Katie on Twitter @katiescarb and read her blog www.katiescarbrough.co.uk. To make a donation to Bowel Cancer UK and Cancer Research UK please visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/Katiescarbrough