A courageous schoolgirl who put her dreams of modelling on hold after being diagnosed with cancer was chosen to lead the charge against the disease at Race for Life Dundee.
Ellie Sutherland, 16, rang the bell to send 1,000 Scots on the 5K and 10K courses at Camperdown Park to raise vital funds for Cancer Research UK. She inspired an 11-strong group of family and friends who have raised £3,000 to help scientists find new ways to treat cancer and save lives. They included Ellie’s sisters, Danielle, 23, and Megan,19, as well as her uncle, Scott Sutherland who has also recently had cancer.
Ellie met Tay FM breakfast presenters Stuart Webster and Claire Kinnaird who were on stage hosting the event. Webster who lost his own dad, Rod Webster to lung cancer in December 2014 shared with the crowd the heartache the disease can cause.
And Ellie, who is a fourth year pupil at Perth High School, will also tomorrow (Tuesday June 18) ring the end of treatment bell at Edinburgh’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children to mark being in remission. Ellie endured everything from a collapsed lung to a fractured spine as well as losing her long curly red hair during four 28 day cycles of chemotherapy and 11 sessions of radiotherapy after being diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma, a cancer that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes.* Her world was shattered on Thursday October 25 last year when doctors explained she had cancer.
Ellie of Abernethy, Perthshire said: “It felt like my whole world fell apart when I got cancer.
“I hated missing out on school and socialising with friends because of cancer. I checked Instagram and social media to see what was happening at school but that’s not the same as actually being there. It’s been a really long few months but I can’t thank the medical staff enough as they’ve saved my life.”
Ellie’s mum and dad Lynn, 45, and Billy, 46, who have stood by her every step of the way through treatment know the sacrifices Ellie has made. Ellie treasures a book of photographs taken at a studio shoot in London in November 2017 before she got ill. The stunning photos show just how much cancer has threatened to take away.
Ellie’s mum Lynn said: “Ellie’s modelling photographs from that shoot in London show teenage attitude.
“Ellie had gorgeous long red hair, wonderful skin, a beautiful smile and she looks as though she has the world at her feet. No one could have possibly guessed back then that these carefree teenage days would soon be shattered.”
Ellie first visited the doctor in September 2018 after developing lumps on her neck, a persistent sore throat and battling exhaustion over the summer. After a series of blood tests and scans, doctors at Edinburgh Royal Hospital for Sick Children confirmed that Ellie had cancer in her neck, chest and spleen.
Mum Lynn said: “Ellie’s oncologist Angela Edgar was amazing right from day one.
“I remember that doctor’s words so clearly. She said: ‘Don’t worry Ellie. I deal with cancer every day and we are going to cure you. Of course you’re devastated right now but we’ll see you through this’.
“The doctor had to explain to Ellie that if she didn’t have the treatment then she was going to die. That’s a hard thing to hear from anyone when you’re just a teenager. There were tears. Ellie has had to grow up very quickly.”
Ellie’s uncle, Scott Sutherland had been diagnosed with bowel cancer only weeks earlier and the family were devastated that cancer was striking their family again so soon. The chemotherapy worked and the results of a scan just after Christmas showed all the cancer had gone from Ellie’s chest and spleen and with cancer showing up in just one lymph node in her neck.
Ellie ended up in the high dependency ward following more chemotherapy. She was in hospital for a week in February this year after battling crippling back pain caused by a fractured spine and a collapsed lung. She had to have a special mask fitted to protect her face before starting radiotherapy at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh. The treatment finished on April 17 and latest scans show no sign of cancer. Ellie has had splints fitted to her legs and attended physiotherapy sessions to boost her mobility after side effects from the cancer treatment have left her struggling to walk.
Mum Lynn said: “Doctors think it could take up to a year for Ellie to get her strength back completely.
“Our eyes have been really opened about the number of children who get cancer and it’s so important to us to do everything we can to raise awareness. What Ellie has been through has changed our family forever and broken my heart more times than I can count but we are getting there.
“Ellie is our brave little warrior and an inspiration to us all.”
Police sergeant Nicola Robb, 38, was the first woman home in the Race for Life Dundee, completing the 5K in 22 minutes. It was the 21st year that Nicola has taken part in Race for Life. She first signed up while at university after a close friend’s sister died from the disease. Air cadets from Dundee’s squadron 1232 and 2450 volunteered at Race for Life, cheering on participants and giving out medals at the finish line.
Cancer Research UK funded scientists found the best combination of drugs to treat Hodgkin Lymphoma and today more than nine in 10 people survive.
Every day, 88 people are diagnosed with cancer in Scotland and the number of people being diagnosed with cancer has now reached around 32,000 people every year.**
As well as the traditional 5K and 10K Race for Life events in the morning at Camperdown Park, the fun continued on Sunday afternoon when 967 people took part in Pretty Muddy Dundee, a 5K mud splattered obstacle course which included challenges like space hoppers, scramble nets and inflatable slides.
Cancer survival in the UK has doubled since the early 1970s and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress. Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, the charity was able to spend around £38 million last year in Scotland on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research.
Lisa Adams, Cancer Research UK’s spokeswoman in Scotland, said: “We’d like to thank Ellie, her family and friends for supporting Race for Life Dundee.
“Our Race for Life events are fun, colourful, emotional and uplifting. They help people with cancer by raising money for research, including clinical trials which give patients across Scotland access to the latest treatments. You don’t have to be sporty to take part. You don’t need to train or compete against anyone else. All you need to do is go to the Race for Life website, pick an event, sign up and then have fun raising money in whatever way you like.”
Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, Cancer Research UK was able to spend more than £2 million last year in Dundee on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research, including research in to the underlying biology of cancer cells which provides the basis for our efforts to beat cancer. Dundee is home to groundbreaking cancer research, with a focus on bowel, breast and skin cancers. By sharing knowledge and expertise, our researchers in Dundee will help rapidly develop discoveries made in the lab in to treatments that will benefit patients in Tayside, North East Fife and beyond.