Fundraising appeal raises thousands as brave teen Katherine loses cancer battle

Katherine Neill.

Katherine Neill.

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A fundraising appeal by the parents of a Banbridge teenager who died of a rare form of cancer last week has raised £6,750 in just a few days.

Katherine Neill, from Weavers Green, passed away on Thursday, 13 months after being diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a form of bone and soft tissue cancer. The 18-year-old, who was a pupil at Banbridge Academy, had just received her A Level results.

Her parents, Gary and Roisin, set up the JustGiving page to raise money for The Boom Foundation, the only charity in Northern Ireland which supports patients with sarcoma.

The couple, who cared for Katherine at home with the help of professionals, paid tribute on the page to their “beautiful” daughter. They said: “In July 2015, Katherine was just 17 years old when she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, rhabdomyosarcoma.

“Despite receiving excellent treatment, she lost her battle with this aggressive disease on August 25, 2016. Throughout her illness, Katherine always remained positive, continuing her education and successfully completing her A-Levels in June 2016.

“Sarcoma is one of the rarest forms of cancer; therefore it does not receive the same levels of investment into research and support for its sufferers as other, more common cancers.”

In Sunday’s funeral homily, Canon Liam Stevenson said Katherine had put “so much energy, vitality, enthusiasm and love into her short life”.

He told the congregation, “I, like all of you, was shocked when I heard, in the middle of July, the sad news of Katherine’s diagnosis of cancer. It’s so hard to fathom the suffering; the loss of mobility; the inability to socialise with the friends of her age.

“It’s so sad to have seen the R plates on the car in the driveway of her home; a car which she wouldn’t be able to drive. It was so hard for Katherine to accept that she wasn’t able to sit her Chemistry A-level this year.

“She was so positive that she would sit it next year and realise her ambition to become an undergraduate at university. She was very successful in the two subjects which she did take at A-level.”

Canon Stevenson said Katherine was extremely well respected by all her classmates.

“She was the centre of so many friends. She had a big smile and exuded happiness. She began ballet dancing at the age of four and continued this art form right up to her sickness.

“Her teachers were very very supportive of her and three of them provided home tuition for her. Mr McLaughlin gave permission to some of her friends to leave school at lunchtime and visit her. She lived just across the road from the Academy. She had great support from all her cousins.

“1975 was her favourite band and she met them in Scotland. She played their music when she was well. When the music wasn’t being played her mother knew that she was suffering. She loved the puppy, Max, whose arrival to her home coincided with her first day of sickness last summer.”

The Boom Foundation donates 50 per cent of funds to Sarcoma UK for vital research; the rest supports those affected by sarcoma in Northern Ireland.

As well as receiving support from The Boom Foundation, Katherine and her family were also helped by other charities during her illness.

Katherine’s funeral service took place on Sunday in St Patrick’s Church, Dromore Street, with interment in St Patrick’s Cemetery.

She is survived by her parents, brother James, grandparents Charlie Keown (Castlewellan) and Olga Neill (Newry), aunts, uncles, cousins, boyfriend Jack and a wide circle of friends.

Her grandparents Rosie Keown and Brooke Neill pre-deceased her.