Life

By Hollie Bone

 

A young model with Down’s Syndrome has strutted down the catwalk of her first major fashion show – after learning to walk and talk again following a three year battle with cancer.

The last 12 months have been a milestone year for Sheffield teenager Kirsty Harrower, in more ways than one – alongside marking her 18th birthday this August, the young model was finally given the all-clear by doctors in January after a three-year battle with leukaemia.

But the icing on the cake for Kirsty, who was robbed of her mobility by the cancer, which affected her legs and needed a wheelchair to get around, was completing a runway walk at Liverpool Fashion week last week.

Parents Janet, 51, and Neil, 49, who are both doctors, knew before Kirsty was born she would have Down’s Syndrome and were expecting her to need surgery – but said it was a huge blow when she was diagnosed with cancer at 15.

But after a childrenswear label spotted her natural flair for modelling, the troubled teen came back out of her shell and learned to walk and talk again.

Mum-of-two Janet said: “We have been through quite a lot.

“We knew before Kirsty was born that she had Down’s Syndrome, but when she was born she had a blocked gut so she needed surgery within hours of her being born.

“At nine weeks she had a hole in her heart repaired.

“Then she was diagnosed with leukaemia in August 2016, just a week after her 15th birthday.

“It was a horrible time, she was really unwell and she was in hospital for three months straight at one point – we basically lived there as a family.

“She lost her hair and became really jaundiced.

“Within weeks of being diagnosed she was in a wheelchair because she just lost all the power in her legs from the chemo and couldn’t walk for three years.

“She had a lot of down days and lost so much confidence when she was poorly.

“She just stopped talking – she would be quiet for weeks because she just forgot how to talk, everything she had going on was so overwhelming.

“Watching her getting so excited and beaming with happiness on the catwalk was the most amazing experience – I felt so helpless as her mum when she was ill, there was nothing I could do to make her better, but she is so strong and has fought so hard to get back to the confident young woman she is.

“I’m so proud of her and she is proud of herself.”

In her lifetime, Kirsty has had eight different surgeries, to correct problems with her ears, heart, gut and throat – but has also been under general anaesthetic countless times to have chemotherapy in her spine.

While Kirsty was ill, her younger sister, Melissa, 12, started modelling with childrenswear brand Be Unique Be You but the designers soon noticed that there was even more young talent in the family.

Kirsty was too poorly to attend Melissa’s first catwalk show in London, but after finally being discharged from Sheffield Children’s Hospital in December last year, she started modelling with the same brand and has now walked down the catwalk four times.

In the future the tenacious teenager hopes to live independently and even learn how to drive, and says she is determined to turn her love of modelling and acting into a career after appearing on TV in the Smart Energy advert earlier this year.

But both sisters are already showing promise after signing up with modelling agency Dee Boss Talent Management.

 

Janet said: “Melissa started the modelling and acting to give her a focus after her sister became unwell, but it ended up paving the way for Kirsty really.

“The designer must have noticed that Kirsty had Down’s Syndrome and contacted me about her modelling potential.

“Coming out of hospital was a massive step for her – we were approaching Christmas so we had lots of people visiting us which helped.

“But it was the modelling that gave her back her confidence – she started doing her make up again and painting her nails and she started singing.”