Hibs schoolgirl footballer helping to save lives

BRAVE schoolgirl footballer Gracie Linn is saving lives and goals after beating cancer.

Ten-year-old Gracie Linn was the goalkeeper for the Hibs Girls under 13 football team until her world collapsed earlier this year after she was diagnosed with leukaemia.

The 10-year-old from Edinburgh who is goalie for the Hibernian under 13s girls’ development squad has returned to the capital club’s training ground to be re-united with her team mates for the first time after more than 25 blood transfusions and months in isolation receiving chemotherapy.

Now cancer free, Gracie - who only completed treatment in September - has been chosen as Scotland’s face of Stand up to Cancer.

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Gracie said: “I want to stand up to cancer for all the children in hospital who I met and to help everyone in the future who gets cancer.

“When I got ill, I couldn’t play football anymore which made me sad. I missed everyone at Hibs. I missed playing all the sports that I love and I missed all my friends.

“That’s why I’m really happy to be finally free, to be well enough to come back, pull on my goalie gloves again and play. It will take a while to get up to full strength again but it feels brilliant to be out here. I’d like to be a nurse when I leave school so I can help other children going through cancer.”

Gracie, a primary seven pupil at East Craigs primary, knows only too well how crucial new developments and breakthroughs in treatment are in helping children and adults survive cancer.

Her parents, Lisa, 39, and Mike Linn, 41, recall vividly the moment their lives were turned upside down on March 12 this year after tests revealed Gracie had acute myeloid leukaemia, a cancer that starts inside bone marrow, the soft tissue inside bones that helps form blood cells.

She had gone for a check up after experiencing symptoms including breathlessness,pale skin and exhaustion. Gracie was used to training several hours a week with the Hibs squad and swimming regularly. She even took part in a sponsored run at school hours before the family’s GP arrived at their front door with the urgent blood results which revealed Gracie had the fight of her life on her hands.

Dad Mike said: “It was very quick.

“We were at ward two of the Sick Kids hospital in Edinburgh that evening. The doctors said they were treating to cure her. That was the main thing we needed to hear. It was difficult though to get our heads around the fact that for up to six months we’d be living in hospital. How were we all going to get through it?

“We promised Gracie that she was never going to be on her own so one of us was always with her and we took turns to stay with her every night. Gracie had very long hair and we had to tell her that the medication she’d need to get better would make her hair fall out.

“But Gracie has dealt with everything that’s been thrown at her with great maturity and strength. We’re incredibly proud of her.”

Life was put on hold as Gracie’s parents juggled looking after their daughter Zoe, five, at home with supporting Gracie in hospital. Caring Gracie raised more than £16,000 for the Sick Kids Friends Foundation by asking friends to sponsor her to have her head shaved.

Her hair was then donated to the Little Princess Trust to help make wigs for other youngsters with cancer. Gracie endured four cycles of chemotherapy which left her feeling sick and exhausted. She had more blood and platelet transfusions to help boost her recovery but her immune system was so low she was at constant risk of catching a life threatening infection.

This meant she was cut off from all of her friends for most of her treatment.

Gracie used to play football as part of Edinburgh Active Schools when she was first spotted by a coach who works for Hibs. She loves playing with Hibs but she’s actually a Hearts fan.

It was a huge relief for all the family when tests showed the cancer was in remission and Gracie returned to school last month.

Gracie and pals from the Hibs team are encouraging Scots to back the Stand up to Cancer ‘Crazy Legs’ challenge and raise vital funds for Cancer Research UK by being sponsored to dress up their pins.

Lisa Adams, Cancer Research UK’s spokeswoman for Scotland, said: “We’d like to thank Gracie and everyone at Hibs for standing up to cancer in style.

“From office workers in jazzy tights, teachers in clown trousers, firemen in flippers or rugby players in tutus, we’re asking people of all walks of life from across Scotland to go barmy on their bottom halves this October. By taking on the Crazy Legs challenge, they’ll be helping to raise crucial cash for life-saving cancer research.

“Simply pull on a ridiculous bottom half for the day and either make a donation or get sponsored by friends and family.

For more information and to get involved visit standuptocancer.org.uk