A SCHOOL dinner lady fighting a devastating form of cancer is using her illness to raise desperately-needed funds for hordes of at-risk cats.
Moggy lover Jackie Couper, 60, was stunned when a watery eye turned out to be a symptom of aggressive Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Rounds of radio-and-chemotherapy caused her to lose her hair and left her so weak she did not have energy to find homes for hundreds of animals she had been helping for West Lothian Cats Protection (WLCP).
Now the brunette is taking advantage of her hair loss after WLCP co-ordinator Roz Fleming agreed to a sponsored headshave, promising not to let her locks grow back until Jackie’s had returned.
Jackie, who will split funds raised between WLCP and Fight Against Cancer Edinburgh (FACE), said: “It’s a huge relief doing this – before the cancer, there’s not a day that I wasn’t out finding homes for the cats.”
She said her diagnosis in April 2011 came after a series of routine GP appointments for a runny eye.
“When it didn’t get better, my doctor told me I’d have to go to the eye clinic at St John’s Hospital,” said Jackie, a cook at Livingston’s Toronto Primary School.
“I remember saying to the other girls in the kitchen, ‘I’m just hopping over and I’ll be back in half an hour’. Then I was sent for a biopsy and they organised a scan for the end of the week. I knew something wasn’t right.”
She said the treatment had turned her life upside down.
“I had a busy life before with work and volunteering,” she said. “Now sometimes a ten-minute walk can shatter me.”
However, she said having a pal prepared to share the experience of losing her hair had made a huge difference.
“Just having someone there to go through it with – it’s definitely a bonus,” Jackie said.
Redhead Roz, 51, hailed Jackie as a “trouper” and said funds raised would also help her organisation at a time when it was having to turn cats away.
“This money couldn’t come at a better time. With the recession and people unable to afford to look after cats, we’ve been inundated.
“This is a chance for us to let Jackie know how much we respect her. I really feel proud and privileged to go through this experience with her.”