TT 2012 will stir some poignant memories for Ruby and Bryan Shepherd because, for the first time in years, their daughter won’t be donning her marshalling tabard and joining Bryan at his regular post at Black Dub.
Despite fighting cancer for five years, Katie Shepherd never failed to be at her post every TT, regardless of her illness, until her untimely death, aged only 22, in February this year.
‘She had cancer for five of the six years she was a marshal yet she never missed a session. She even delayed one of her chemotherapy sessions across in Clatterbridge three years ago so she could marshal,’ said Mrs Shepherd.
‘It was intensive with one week over there and two weeks at home. After three years it transferred to Noble’s and her ambition was to pass her driving test so she could take herself there – which she did. She also had major surgery three times. She was on duty two months after having a hysterectomy.’
Mrs Shepherd said that in their early days in the island she and her husband would be on duty at Black Dub during the TT and Katie and her siblings would play in their tent in the field nearby.
‘We went for the day and took packed lunches. Her dad has marshalled there for 28 years. I think that’s where she got the inspiration from. She even made the effort to do it when she was ill with the chemo, which can make you feel really tired,’ she said. ‘She was a character and a half and we knew all her wishes before she went. She fought it with such courage and against the odds. She knew she was going to lose. Other people have told us they were inspired.’
When the illness – a rare form of ovarian cancer called a juvenile granulosa cell tumour – finally claimed Katie’s life Mrs Shepherd said the Peel Methodist church was packed to capacity with well wishers.
‘She was buried with her marshal’s tabard and many of the other people also wore theirs,’ Mrs Shepherd said.
‘She also said she wanted people to wear purple and people did that too – even those who were across and unable to come to the service did that as a tribute on the day.’
On a serious note, Mrs Shepherd said she they both wanted to say thank you to all the medical staff in the island who were ‘exceptionally brilliant’. In particular she cited Keith Wilkinson, Michelle Maroney and Mr George at Noble’s Hospital, Dr John Currie at Peel Medical Centre and the hospice staff. She also thanked Katie’s partner, Ben Edgerton, who ‘stuck by her the whole time’.
A family friend, Jonathan Kneen, is doing the Parish Walk to raise money for cancer research in Katie’s memory. Donations can be made by calling Laurelle on 483995