A childhood cancer survivor has qualified as a nurse after being inspired by her own care – and now works with the same medic who helped save her nearly 20 years ago.
Clara Markiewicz, 23, was treated her for a rare blood cancer at the age of four and given just a 50/50 chance of survival.
Nurse Kate Pye, 50, was in the room with Clara’s family when they were given the news, and was by her side while she endured months of chemotherapy and surgery.
Kate left the hospital before Clara went into remission – but her care and dedication inspired Clara to study nursing at university.
And the pair have been united after the discovered they were both working at Great Ormond Street Hospital, late last year.
Clara recently qualified as a nurse, and Kate is head of blood, cells and cancer.
The newly qualified nurse said: “For a lot of my childhood, I grew up around nurses.
“Being stuck inside hospital limits a child’s social life massively.
“During the hardest period of my life, my memories are largely filled with positive things the wonderful nurses did, and Kate was one of them.
“When I was feeling well enough, we would dance in the corridor to the radio, make art, throw a surprise birthday party for my mum, play tricks on the other staff, or I’d get to sit at the nurse’s station – the ultimate privilege- while they did notes.
“There was nothing better than spinning around the ward and forgetting everything for a bit and Kate was best at that.
“It has been a long road to get here, and to be well enough to be a nurse myself, but Kate has played a massive part in encouraging and motivating me to keep going throughout my training and now as a newly qualified.
“She has so much experience; putting children and their families at the heart of everything is what she has been doing ever since she was a staff nurse looking after me.”
Kate added: “I’m really proud of the amazing young woman Clara has become.
“She has used her experience, and it has shaped her into the kind and caring individual she is today.”
Clara, from High Barnet, Hertfordshire, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) in 2001 after her parents discovered bruises all over her body.
She spent six months living at the Royal London Hospital, where she was cared for by
Kate and her colleagues.
Clara was given just a 50/50 chance of survival but a clinical trial helped save her life and she has been cancer free ever since.
Clara said: “Kate was the nurse in the room with my family when we were given my diagnosis of cancer and the prognosis,
“For me, and for my parents, that was the moment when we understood the incredible value of nurses.
“Kate stayed in the room to answer our questions, gave us time to process and explained anything the doctors said that didn’t make sense.
“From that day, and for the next six months, she became one of the nurses our family trusted the most.”
She left the hospital before Clara went into remission, so didn’t even know if she had survived her cancer.
Kate began working towards a degree in children’s nursing at the University of Southampton in 2016.
Clara was sent to Southampton Children’s Hospital on placement, and bumped in to each other soon after.
Kate, who was head of nursing at the time, said: “I found Clara on the orthopaedic ward one very busy winter weekend shift.
“We looked at each other and said, is it you!”
Clara recalled: “We had a lot of catching up to do,
“It was emotional, particularly when my parents came to meet her again, after all those years, to thank her for everything she did.”
In 2020, after completing her course, Clara chose to start her career as a nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital, on the oncology ward.
And soon after Kate got in touch to say their paths were about to cross again, and she started a job as head of blood, cells and cancer in September 2020.
It comes 26 years after she worked there as a newly qualified nurse.
Clara said: “I am privileged enough to be working alongside an amazing team who care for children with cancer and immunological conditions from all over the world.
“Kate wasn’t at GOSH when I started but I got a message from her, a few months ago, saying she would see me at GOSH – she was due to start a job as the Head of Blood Cells and Cancer!
“We just seem to keep following each other around!”
Kate added: “I always hoped I might end up back here.”