In memory of brave Katy Holmes: Paula Holmes is travelling the globe to fulfil her daughter's Bucket List
From a dream family holiday in Florida, 10-year-old Katy Holmes was suddenly diagnosed with a brain tumour.
As she lay poorly in a hospital bed undergoing gruelling treatment, her parents desperately tried to keep her upbeat by reminiscing about their time at Disney World and promised to take Katy back there when she was better.
“While Katy was in hospital, we tried to fill her with positive thoughts and talked about our trip to Disney World.
“I then asked Katy if there was anywhere else she would love to go and we’d take her there when she was better.
“At first Katy said simple things such as going to Alton Towers and the Trafford Centre to do Christmas shopping.
“But then I said: ‘What if you could go anywhere in the world?’
“Katy looked up the most beautiful places in the world on Google and looked at the pictures and chose the places she thought looked the best.
“Katy chose Kilamanjaro because she liked the elephants and giraffes and she picked China for the Great Wall.
“She also picked Iceland for the Northern Lights and Vietnam as she liked the unusual and distinctive pattern of the paddy fields.
“As Katy pointed to each place, I wrote down the destination and told her when she was better, we would take her to these places.
“It just kept her thinking positive. But unfortunately, Katy did not get to get to go to any of these places.”
Katy died in January 2012 after a three-month battle against the brain tumour.
Her family set up The Katy Holmes Trust in her memory to fund world-class research into treatments for brain tumours – including DOPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma) – the type that took Katy’s life.
Paula and the rest of the family have fund-raised tirelessly in Katy’s memory and have taken on challenges around the globe while ticking off destinations from Katy’s Bucket List.Paula has
already ticked off a number of places from Katy’s list and tomorrow, Tuesday, she will be heading to Vietnam with her friend and trustee Alison Allen from Garstang and the pair will begin a 10-day trek through highland valleys, rice paddies and limestone mountains.
Paula says: “I am making it my mission to complete this bucket list for Katy.
“I did Kilamanjaro in 2014 and then I did China in 2016.
“We have family in Ohio and every year, they do a ‘pig roast’ which is a hog roast to us. When Katy was poorly, they wanted us to come over but she was too ill.
“I promised Katy I would take her when she was better but she never got to go.
“In 2017, I went on Katy’s behalf and met our USA family for the first time. It was very emotional. When I came back, I went to Iceland in 2017 too - and now in 2018, I am going to Vietnam.”
There are a number of places still on Katy’s Bucket List – and Paula already has the next one lined up – the Canadian Rockies in 2020.
Paula says: “As well as picking all these beautiful places in the world, Katy also told us she wanted to visit the orphanages in Romania and help the children. But I don’t know if I will be strong enough to do that one myself.
“There are still places including Thailand, Japan and France on Katy’s list.
“Carrying out Katy’s Bucket List has been positive for me as it has helped me to look forward and helped me through the grief.”Paula, who also has daughters Charley, 14 and Scarlet, six, took a two year break from the fund-raising to concentrate on them but now feels ready to do her next challenge in Vietnam.
She says: “This is my first challenge since the Great Wall of China trek.
“As a mum to two other young children, I knew it was important to take a break from fund-raising to focus on the rest of my family.
“But now I am ready for a new challenge. I don’t want Katy to be forgotten and every day, children are diagnosed with this terrible disease and I need to keep going for them.
“I am excited for the challenge ahead. I have the usual nerves but I will keep going in Katy’s memory.
“If I don’t keep going, then we won’t find a cure.”
Since The Katy Holmes Trust was established in July 2012, its fundraising efforts have led to the investment of more than £1m into brain tumour research. The work funded by The Katy Holmes Trust forms a wider programme of research into childhood brain tumours such as DIPG led by The Brain Tumour Charity.
Paula says: “The thing that always sticks in my mind is that Neil Armstrong’s daughter died at the age of two of the same brain tumour as Katy in 1962.
“A few years later, Neil Armstrong flew to the moon and walked on it.
“But in 2011, Katy got the same brain tumour and had the exact same treatment as Neil Armstrong’s daughter as there had been no advances in treatment.
“However, now because of the research we are funding through The Brain Tumour Charity, there are already advances being made.
“This is bittersweet as it has come too late for Katy. But it is not too late for the future generation.
“All the challenges I am doing are for Katy’s Bucket List but I am using them to fundraise for The Katy Holmes Trust too.”