A BRAVE foster mum who cared for so many children she lost count has revealed she is in a desperate battle for survival with cancer.
Eileen Leitchman’s tragic news came as she picked up a local hero gong in the Capital to honour her dedication to at least 500 foster kids over 35 years.
The courageous 63-year-old said she was devastated at having to give up fostering after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the summer.
She said the absence of children had left a huge hole and that she was still getting used to a “quiet house”.
Although she struggled through draining rounds of chemotherapy and a bout of major surgery, she said it was still a joy to get up in the morning. “Every new day is a bonus for me just now,” she said.
Eileen said fostering children of all ages began “out of the blue” after she dropped in at the local social work office one day to ask what she could do to help her community.
Although the 35 years spent caring for hundreds of kids who had no-one else were gruelling, Eileen, from Cardenden in Fife, said she enjoyed every minute.
“The hardest thing has been giving it up but when I became ill, I knew I couldn’t do it anymore. It’s such a big space not having the children any more – the house is so quiet.
“The best thing is watching them move on to something better. I love it when they go for adoption. And I’ve made so many friends over the years.”
Eileen’s accolade, presented by Evening News editor Frank O’Donnell and Arlene Stuart, came during a rock and pop feast for thousands of fans at the Usher Hall to celebrate the Radio Forth 2012 awards.
A-listers including rock band the Stereophonics, X-Factor hero Olly Murs and Dundee indie kings The View hit the stage as ordinary people from Edinburgh and the Lothians were honoured for incredible contributions to their communities.
Olly Murs, in town ahead of the release of single Troublemaker and a third album, scooped the best artist gong and said performing in the Capital was special.
He said. “It’s only the afternoon but I know half of the people here will already be drunk! You just won’t get that anywhere else. It’s a great place to be and a great award for all the work people are doing.”
After the Stereophonics were named Radio Forth icons of 2012, frontman Kelly Jones told the News it was “always great” to play Edinburgh.
“We have really fond memories of Scotland. It was our first experience of gigging outside Wales, and especially doing Hogmanay back in the nineties – that was one of our biggest gigs in the beginning.”
X-Factor finalist Amelia Lily said: “I came here for an X-Factor tour and it’s really nice to come back – the northern fans are always brilliant.”
Radio Forth station director Cathy Kirk paid tribute to those who organised the event: “This year’s line-up has been one of the strongest yet and we’ve been thrilled to see people turning out in their thousands.”
The list of winners in full
Radio Forth Icon Award: Stereophonics
Best Performance Award: Amelia Lily
Best Artist Award: Olly Murs
Music Recognition Award: The View
Contribution to Sport Award: Sir Chris Hoy
Local Hero Award: Eileen Leitchman
Best Place to Work Award: Fitwise, West Lothian
Best Bar/Restaurant: The Watering Hole, Dunfermline
Best Teacher Award: Mrs Jennifer Landels of Touch Primary School, Dunfermline
Cash for Kids Award: Noah DuncanlBest Fringe Award: Edward Reid
Community Venture Award: Greengables Nursery and Family Centre