Girl, nine, to undertake charity challenge with friends after cancer battle

Girl, nine, to undertake charity challenge with friends after cancer battle
Kara McInally, in cap, and her group of friends will take part in the race later this month (Lesley Martin/Cancer Research UK/PA)

A nine-year-old girl who had brain surgery three times to treat a rare cancer is to take part in a charity challenge with her best friends to help others fighting the disease.

Kara McInally has been chosen as the VIP starter to sound the horn at Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life Pretty Muddy Kids, a 5k obstacle course at Strathclyde Country Park in North Lanarkshire on June 15.

She is taking part in the event to mark a year in remission, having first being diagnosed with cancer in January 2022.

The nine-year-old will take part in the race as captain of the “Sassy Squad”, a team comprising her friends from Ladywell Primary School in Motherwell who supported her through the disease, and her cousin.

Kara in hospitalKara McInally with a sign in hospital at the end of her chemotherapy treatment (Laura McInally/PA)

Kara’s mother Laura McInally, 36, said: “Now is the right time for her to join her squad of besties out there in the mud to support this amazingly worthwhile charity, help other people going through cancer and also have lots of fun doing it.

“Kara’s strength, resilience and love for life kept us going through the darkest of days and I’m so proud of her.

“It was the worst feeling in the world when Kara was diagnosed with cancer. But sometimes real superheroes live in the hearts of small children fighting really big battles. Kara was supported by her friends throughout, ensuring she was never alone in her fight.

“They have always stuck by her. When we went to Manchester for seven weeks of Kara’s treatment, some of them would write to her, they’d FaceTime her. We were 250 miles away from home but they’d still work hard to keep her company.

“There were many gestures of kindness from Kara’s besties. When Kara was going back to school after her second cycle of chemotherapy and had lost the vast majority of her hair, a group of her friends turned up to school all wearing a baseball cap just like the one Kara was wearing.

“They did that so Kara didn’t feel alone or different going in to school that day. It was a form of unity to support Kara that I’ll always be grateful for.”

Kara first became ill just before Christmas 2021 and was taken to the optician for an eye test after suffering mild but frequent headaches.

Kara's friends wearing capsKara’s friends wore hats when she returned to school so she would feel welcome (Laura McInally/PA)

She was immediately referred to University Hospital Hairmyres in East Kilbride after the optician noticed Kara’s optic nerve was swollen.

After scans confirmed a growth behind her skull, Kara was transferred to the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow and had her first surgery just four days later to remove a 4cm tumour from her brain.

On January 10 2022, doctors confirmed she had cancer and the schoolgirl was diagnosed with a grade three anaplastic ependymoma tumour.

In February, Kara travelled to Manchester for seven weeks of proton beam therapy at the NHS centre at The Christie, which was followed by four months of chemotherapy in Glasgow.

However in November 2022 tests showed the tumour had grown back and Kara had to undergo brain surgery for a second time.

The operation was a success, however in spring 2023 she endured a third surgery as it was suspected the tumour had returned.

Kara and her family, from Motherwell, were hugely relieved when biopsy tests showed there was only scar tissue and in June 2023 they were told she was cancer free and did not need any more treatment or surgery.

Kara’s father Kevin McInally, 47, and sister Khloe, three, will be cheering the Sassy Squad on at the race later this month.

Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life is a series of 3k, 5k, 10k, Pretty Muddy and Pretty Muddy Kids events which raise millions of pounds every year to help beat cancer by funding research.

Lisa Adams, Cancer Research UK’s spokeswoman in Scotland, said: “We are grateful to Kara and family for their support. We’d also like to say a giant thank-you to Kara’s friends.

“We’d love for as many people as possible across Scotland to get muddy to help raise funds for life-saving research this June.”

More information about the event can be found at

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