A leukaemia sufferer who wrote ‘F**k cancer’ on her face for a selfie that went viral has died aged just 28.
Kathryn Cartwright went on to become an inspirational figure following the blood cancer diagnosis 13 years ago, when she was 16.
She was told there was an 80 per cent chance the disease would kill her, but she defied the odds year after year, and was keen to make it to 30.
Despite being considered in remission, she passed away on January 18 from a liver infection after being unwell for weeks. It’s thought she died from the antibiotic-resistant superbug Klebsiella.
The cancer had devastated her immune system and left her prone to infections, causing her to need a liver transplant in 2008.
The young ambassador for the Anthony Nolan charity died peacefully in hospital, surrounded by her family.
Kathryn Cartwright became an inspirational figure since her leukaemia diagnosis 13 years ago, aged 16. She wrote ‘F***k cancer’ for a viral selfie in 2014 after falling from her wheelchair and bruising her face (pictured). She died on January 18, he family have announced
Ms Cartwright’s family revealed she had died of an ‘insurmountable’ liver infection caused by a superbug called Klebsiella. She had fought the bug before
Her death was announced in an update on her website, which read: ‘As many of you will have realised, Kathryn has been unwell and in hospital for some weeks.
‘The infection in her liver returned and this time proved to be insurmountable. Kathryn died peacefully on Saturday 18 January with her family at her side.’
The statement was accompanied by a drawing of Ms Cartwright on the website she called ‘In one of the stars I shall be living’.
Blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan paid tribute to her, calling Ms Cartwright an ‘incredible woman who worked tirelessly to support people with blood cancer’.
Chief executive Henny Braund said: ‘Many of us will remember fondly Kathryn’s strong and positive attitude coupled with a dry sense of humour; a remarkable individual who shared her own story to inspire others.’
Ms Cartwright, from Sutton, Coldfield, was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukaemia (AML) in August 2007.
Leukaemia is cancer of the white blood cells that protect the body against infections. AML is a very aggressive form of the disease because it attacks the body’s defence.
AML affects around one in 200 men and one in 255 women in the UK at some point in their lives. In the US, of all 61,780 new cases of leukaemia every year, about 21,450 will be AML, mostly in adults.
The disease left Ms Cartwright weak and reliant on a wheelchair at times, but it didn’t stop her from living a life she wanted.
Seven years after her diagnosis, Ms Cartwright posted a shocking selfie of her bruised face after falling out her wheelchair.
She had written ‘F*** cancer’ under her blackened and bloodshot eye, an image that inspired thousands in 2014.
In 2018, Ms Cartwright celebrated 10 years sine her diagnosis. Once a person has stayed alive for five years after cancer, they are considered to be in remission, she wrote in an article for Anthony Nolan.
Ms Cartwright had undergone three bone marrow transplants – the last of which left her fighting for her life.
Seven years after her diagnosis, Ms Cartwright posted a shocking selfie of her bruised face after falling out her wheelchair. She is pictured at her home in Sutton, Coldfield
Her death was announced in an update on her website accompanied by a drawing of Ms Cartwright on the website she called ‘In one of the stars I shall be living’
WHAT IS ACUTE MYELOID LEUKAEMIA?
Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is a type of blood cancer that starts in young white blood cells in the bone marrow.
AML affects around one in 200 men and one in 255 women in the UK at some point in their lives.
Approximately 19,500 new cases occur every year in the US.
It is most often diagnosed in older people.
Symptoms can include:
- Frequent infections
- Bruising or bleeding easily, including nosebleeds or heavy periods
- Weight loss
- Bone and joint pain
- Swollen abdomen
- Pale skin
AML’s exact cause is unclear, however, risks include:
- Being overweight
- Radiation exposure
- Previous chemotherapy
- Certain blood disorders, such as myelodysplastic syndrome
- Some immune conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis
AML is usually treated via chemotherapy. A bone marrow or stem cell transplant may be required.
Source: Cancer Research UK
She campaigned to get the public to sign up to the stem cell registry – which requires people to send a cheek swab in the post.
Ms Cartwright had a liver transplant in 2008 when her own organ failed. But she battled infections so severe since that she was hospitalisied and thought she would die.
The superbug Klebsiella had struck at least twice. It causes a variety of rare but potentially life-threatening liver, respiratory tract, bloodstream and other infections, and is resistant to antibiotics.
In a post on her website in November, Ms Cartwright penned: ‘The pain returned on the 27th of November, so we went to A&E, and essentially, the klebsiella is back.
‘It is ironic that I have been trying to write a piece about how this was going to be my tenth consecutive Christmas at home, and this strikes. I am not expecting to wake up in my own bed on Christmas morning.
‘I know I keep writing pieces saying that I think the end is nigh, but every single time, that is how it feels.
‘This infection is going to take a long time to shift, and in the long term, there isn’t really a plan yet.’
Ms Cartwright’s last post on her website was posted just before Christmas, on December 21.
Ms Cartwright published a picture of her Christmas tree in the living room but said she would not be updating until she could type ‘reliably’.
She added: ‘Currently I have side-effects from having one of my drugs messed about with in hospital, so I randomly shake or flail. Normal proceedings shall resume as soon as possible.’
Ms Cartwright’s last tweet, on January 8, said she had been in ‘agony’ all day but felt frustrated with her care.
In a post on her website in November, accompanied with this photo, Ms Cartwright penned: ‘The pain returned on the 27th of November… essentially, the klebsiella is back’
Ms Cartwright had undergone three bone marrow transplants – the last of which left her fighting for her life. She is pictured after her first one in 2008
Ms Cartwright had a liver transplant when her liver failed. Her skin turned yellow with jaundice (pictured) as she was in desperate need of a new liver
HOW CAN YOU SIGN UP TO THE STEM CELL DONOR REGISTRY?
To become a potential blood stem cell donor you need to visit DKMS.org.uk.
Your age, location and current health status are important, so you will be asked questions to see if you are eligible to donate.
Anyone between the ages of 18-55 and in general good health can become a potential blood stem cell donor. You must also be permanently living in the UK.
You will receive three cheek swabs that you move around your mouth for a minute each.
Once DKMS receive your swabs, they will analyse your tissue type and add your details on the UK stem cell registry in an anonymised form.
Your details will then be part of blood stem cell donor searches for people all over the world who need a genetic match to get a second chance at life.
The other 10 per cent have the blood taken from the bone marrow in the hip or pelvis. The blood stem cells completely replenish themselves within two to four weeks.
She wrote: ‘I have been quiet all day because the bad pain has come back and the doctors have not listened to me so I have been in agony all day, waiting for different drugs, wailing and flailing, trying to find a comfortable position. What is this bug?’
In her last interview with Birmingham Live, in November, Ms Cartwright talked about living with AML, including having an oxygen tank everywhere she goes.
She said: ‘Twelve years ago I was told you’ve got leukemia.
‘Since then people keep telling me you’re going to die and I just haven’t.
‘I would really like to make it to 30.
‘All I really want to do now is get to 30 so I can hold a benefit party for myself so that I can hold a comedy gig to raise money for Anthony Nolan.’
Ms Cartwright said she thought about death ‘a lot’ and said: ‘It is sad but I am more concerned for my family. If I am dead I am gone but my family have to live with that.
‘I’ve never been scared, just sad because I might not be able to say goodbye to them.
‘In reality living a long life is not going to happen.’
To sign up to the stem call register, click here.