Childhood cancer patient shares emotional reunion with radiographer 30 years after treatment at The Christie
Date published: 12 November 2023
Kat and Margery
Kat Watson, a 34-year-old IT professional from Rochdale, is still in touch with the 91-year-old radiographer who treated her for a brain tumour at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust over 30 years ago.
Kat, who trained as a nurse, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 1992 at just three years old. Her parents went to see the doctor after noticing that she was getting headaches and wasn’t able to walk in a straight line.
They were referred to their local hospital where doctors found a tangerine-sized tumour at the base of her brain. She had an operation to remove it before being referred to The Christie for radiotherapy.
It was at the specialist cancer hospital that she met Margery Roberts, a radiographer who worked at the hospital between 1965 and 1993. Kat’s parents, and later Kat herself have kept in touch with her ever since, sending Christmas cards and emails. Margery also kept in touch, sending Kat cards on her birthday.
“I loved being a radiographer,” said Margery. “I just love people and being able to put them at ease and lighten their journey was such a privilege. I have fond memories of many of my patients, including Kat. She was a very warm, affectionate, and optimistic child - qualities she still has to this day.”
Kat doesn’t remember much about her treatment, but she remembers Margery and the way she made her feel.
“Even though I’ve only met her a handful of times, she’s had a huge impact on my life. She’s so caring. I see her almost as like a grandma figure.”
Kat’s mum and dad, Dave and Liz, are also clear about the impact that Margery had on them.
“To be told that your toddler has cancer is just horrendous. Margery wasn’t just brilliant with Kat, she was also great with us,” comments Liz. “She made a really difficult time that much easier and brought warmth and light to our lives. We started by sending her one Christmas card, and here we are thirty years later, still in touch.”
Kat met Margery again last year when she was in Manchester for a Christie reunion. It was a special occasion for them both.
“It was so lovely seeing Kat again. Even though we’d only met a handful of times before, it didn’t feel like that as her parents, and later Kat herself, have kept me up to date with everything that’s been going on in her life. I feel so privileged that she wants to keep in touch.”
“Margery was just as I remembered her – warm, kind and open. She made me feel at ease straight away,” said Kat. “We spent some time going through photos from that time. That was special to me as I don’t really have many memories of treatment – I only have what Mum and Dad have told me – so to get another perspective on it has been really helpful. I was also able to show her pictures of my wedding. I invited her, but she wasn’t able to come due to Covid-19 restrictions.”
Kat’s treatment was successful, and she still goes to The Christie every year for a check-up. She lives with some side effects due to the fact that the tumour was on the part of the brain that plays a role in motor movement regulation and balance control. As a result, she walks with a crutch. She also has some problems with her memory.
“I’m proud of who I am,” comments Kat. “I’m involved with the disability network at work; that’s something that’s very important to me. I’m sharing my story to show other people with disabilities and cancer patients that there’s power and strength in just being yourself no matter what life throws at you.”
It’s this drive that has led Kat to become involved in research into the side effects of childhood cancer and radiotherapy later in life. Researchers at The Christie and The University of Manchester have two main projects in this area – one is looking at the impact of cancer treatment on the brain and another is examining how it affects dental health and facial symmetry. Kat will be working with the team on how to best present research results in a way that’s accessible to patients, carers and the wider public.
“Cancer treatment is constantly evolving and that’s only possible because of research. I’m so happy to be involved if it can improve things for people like me in the future,” says Kat.
“I’m constantly amazed at the advances that have come along since I retired,” adds Margery. “And I’m not just talking about advances in radiotherapy treatment, but also in the facilities that are available for childhood cancer patients. There’s a school at The Christie, lots of play spaces, and families have access to specialists who are there specifically to look after the children’s wellbeing while they’re there for treatment. I’m so glad that Kat’s taking part in research as I know it has the potential to help so many others. I really am so proud of her.”
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