Childhood cancer survivor to become pediatric nurse

A child leukemia survivor who narrowly escaped death is now set to graduate as a pediatric nurse and live her dream of helping save children's lives.

Katy Payne, 20, was diagnosed with leukemia on Christmas Eve, 2000, when she was only 2 and battled the disease for two years before finally becoming "cancer free."

And 18 years on from her diagnosis, Payne from Colchester, Essex, is finally able to help children suffering the same horrendous trauma she did.

Payne, who is in her final year at Anglia Ruskin University says her life goal of helping young cancer sufferers is what she wanted since fighting cancer as a child.

"I woke up from a lumbar puncture during treatment and I looked up to my mum in pain and told her I wanted to be a nurse," she said. "I wanted to make children feel better. I had come so close to death and I had to be brought back to life a couple of times but this just made me want to help people more."

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"And now when I look at children suffering in [the] hospital and are dying I think 'wow look at me now', and I want these children to have a chance at life like I have."

As a young child, Payne lost her hair through chemotherapy, was always very weak and the steroids she was taking made her bloated.

Parents Tracy, 54 and Paul 54 were "heartbroken" to see their daughter so ill and at points thought their daughter wouldn't make it.

But almost two years into treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, she began to get better and began to want to help others like her.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the white blood cells and there are only around 650 people diagnosed yearly in the U.K.

Payne, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2000, said her dream is to one-day work on the oncology floor, but is now focused on helping pediatric patients.

Payne, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2000, said her dream is to one-day work on the oncology floor, but is now focused on helping pediatric patients. (SWNS)

"All the way through primary school it was all I spoke about and as soon as I had the chance to choose my own subjects I chose double health and social care," she said. "I knew that is what would get me into college and then university."

"I was not going to let anything stop me, I was going to be a pediatric nurse and I have always been set on it," she said. "When I got accepted to university I was in total shock because now I can finally give back after everything I have been through."

While studying, Payne has been doing work at Colchester General Hospital and spending time with the child cancer sufferers.

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And, she is now working with the same nurses who treated her when she had leukemia.

"When they first saw me again they couldn't believe it was me," she said. "One of the nurses who cared for me when I was sick is Stuart Collier - I now work with him at Colchester. He's one of my best friends and we talk all the time."

"He can remember seeing me when I was sick and my skin was yellow, and he just can't believe that I'm the same person now," Payne said. "He was part of the group that raised the money for my nurse outfit, so for me to be able to say I'm still here and now working alongside him, is incredible."

Doctors at the hospital are shocked at Payne's head on approach because in most cases hospitals chase children away after horrible experiences.

"Usually when a child has a traumatic experience in a hospital setting it pushes them away from wanting to be near hospitals or have anything to do with them," she said. "But for me, it has been the complete opposite. I want to know more about why I was sick and I want to make others better."

Payne hopes to one day go into oncology but says her immediate goal is to graduate next year August and to work full-time as a pediatric nurse.

"Graduating will just be everything for me and will open so many different doors," the youngest of four siblings said. "I want to one-day study oncology but that is way ahead, I just want to settle and help as many children as I can. This started off as such a terrible story and I have the chance to make that happy ending not only for myself but for so many young people."

Payne added that the support from her parents was ultimately what helped her most along the way.

"My parents and my nan never left my side and really pushed me forward along the way and I am so thankful to everyone," she said.