Young cancer survivor Kara takes on Pretty Muddy Kids challenge with best friends

An inspirational Motherwell schoolgirl who had brain surgery three times to treat a rare cancer will take on a mud-splattered charity challenge with her best friends.

Nine-year-old Kara McInally has been chosen as VIP starter to sound the horn at Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life Pretty Muddy Kids, a 5k obstacle course at Strathclyde Country Park on Saturday, June 15.

Now clear of cancer, Kara is captain of ‘Sassy Squad’, a team of her pals from Ladywell Primary School who supported her through the disease.

Together with Kara’s cousin, Lola McGranaghan, nine, they’ve vowed to wriggle through scramble nets, bounce on space hoppers and crawl through a mud pit and have already raised £840.

Kara will be cheered on by her mum Laura, dad Kevin as well as her sister Khloe, three.

Laura, 36, said: Kara’s strength, resilience and love for life kept us going through the darkest of days and I’m so proud of her.

“It was the worst feeling in the world when Kara was diagnosed with cancer. But sometimes real superheroes live in the hearts of small children fighting really big battles.

“Kara was supported by her friends throughout, ensuring she was never alone in her fight.

Kara together with her 'besties' -Credit:WSH]
Kara together with her 'besties' -Credit:WSH]

“When we went to Manchester for seven weeks of Kara’s treatment some of them would write to and Facetime her.

“When Kara was going back to school after her second cycle of chemotherapy and had lost the vast majority of her hair a group of her friends turned up to school all wearing a baseball cap just like the one Kara was wearing.

“It was a form of unity to support Kara that I’ll always be grateful for.”

Laura recalls vividly her shock just before Christmas 2021 when Kara first became ill. Kara was taken to the optician for an eye test after suffering mild but frequent headaches.

She was immediately referred to University Hospital Hairmyres in East Kilbride after the optician noticed Kara’s optic nerve was swollen.

Kara McInally with mum Laura -Credit:WSH]
Kara McInally with mum Laura -Credit:WSH]

After scans confirmed a growth behind her skull, Kara was transferred to the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow and had her first surgery just four days later to remove a 4cm tumour from her brain.

Kara recovered well but the family faced an agonising wait over the festive period for tests results. On January 10 2022, doctors confirmed it was cancer. Kara was diagnosed with a grade three anaplastic ependymoma tumour.

In February, Kara travelled to Manchester for seven weeks of proton beam therapy. This type of radiotherapy was advised as it can minimise side effects for patients by reducing damage to developing or sensitive organs.

But for Laura who travelled to Manchester with Kara, it meant weeks away from her younger daughter Khloe who was only a baby.

The treatment was followed by four months of chemotherapy. The family hoped to have put the worst behind them so it was a hammer blow in November 2022 when tests showed the tumour had grown back. Kara faced brain surgery for a second time.

Kara had to keep positive while she was undergoing treatment -Credit:WSH]
Kara had to keep positive while she was undergoing treatment -Credit:WSH]

Laura said: “We felt completely blindsided the day her oncologist told us her MRI showed possible recurrence and surgery was the only option.

“It felt like we were being thrown back a year but once again we had to trust in the surgeon’s words when he told us that, ‘I’ll take care of her.’ We were fortunate to have the best medical team.”

Several months later in spring 2023 Kara endured a third surgery as it was suspected the tumour had returned. It was a huge relief when biopsy tests showed there was only scar tissue.

In June 2023, her parents received the phone call they’d been praying for - Kara was cancer free.

Now to mark a year of being in remission Kara will take part in Pretty Muddy Kids.

Kar with her sister Khloe
Kar with her sister Khloe -Credit:Cancer Research UK

Laura said: “Kara is enjoying school, loves all her hobbies, is very active, full of energy and has been helped by her friends to get her confidence back.

“Now is the right time for her to join her squad of besties out there in the mud to support this amazingly worthwhile charity, help other people going through cancer and also have lots of fun doing it.”

Kara’s family set up an Instagram account @sassy_wee_lassie to follow her cancer journey including regular updates and photos. They have words of wisdom for the parents of any child going through cancer right now.

Kara is one of around 320 young people who are diagnosed with cancer in Scotland every year. The Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow is one of many centres across the UK taking part in ground-breaking clinical trials coordinated by Cancer Research UK’s children’s cancer trials team.

Lisa Adams, Cancer Research UK’s spokeswoman in Scotland, said: “We are grateful to Kara and family for their support.

“We’d also like to say a giant thank you to Kara’s friends. We’d love for as many people as possible across Scotland to get muddy to help raise funds for life-saving research this June.”

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