As Scotland Women prepare to inspire a nation at next year’s FIFA World Cup, the team themselves were blown away by the inspirational story of one young fan prior to their friendly with world champions the USA.
Having been diagnosed with osteosarcoma last June, Katie Pake was unable to take part in the sports she loves, restricted to cheering on her idols from a hospital bed.
“I’d had a sore knee playing football, but everyone just thought it was growing pains,” she said.
“A wee while later I was at a school swimming competition and my knee just clicked – I’d been doing well and ended up finishing last. I was supposed to have another race the next week, but my knee was so sore I didn’t want to go. My dad said we should go to the doctor’s for an X-ray, and the radiologist told us something wasn’t right.
“We got a call the next day to go straight over to hospital in Edinburgh, where they told us it was potentially either a cyst or cancer. They did a biopsy to find out, and it came back as osteosarcoma. I went in to start my treatment the next day.”
After undergoing an intensive course of chemotherapy, doctors were eventually forced to amputate the then-nine year old’s right leg after the cancer spread.
Yet a pioneering operation, which saw doctors re-attach her foot backwards to her thigh to make it easier for Katie to walk with a prosthetic limb, has given her hope of returning to the football pitch.
Through it all, however, the upbeat nature of the Raith Rovers Ladies and Girls Club defender has shone through, with sport remaining her main focus.
“Sport has kept me going really,” said Katie.
“Seeing what I can do once I get better has been massive. I loved watching the Winter Olympics, as well as football and swimming, and they’ve all kept me going.”
Katie’s story captured the attention of the Scotland Women’s National Team, and was invited along to training at Oriam prior to the team’s friendly with the USA this week.
Head coach Shelley Kerr and captain Rachel Corsie were amongst those who spoke to the young football starlet, as the squad prepared for the visit of the world champions.
“It’s been really exciting – a bit scary too, because I’m meeting my favourite players!” laughed Katie.
“Shelley and Rachel were so lovely though, just as I’d expected them to be.”