Inspirational Holly shares cancer battle
ASOUTHPORT student who was treated for cancer when she was 15 is the star of a short film encouraging people to Stand Up To Cancer.
Holly Allen, 21, has joined forces with Cancer Research UK and Channel 4 to highlight the joint fundraising campaign, to accelerate new cancer treatments and tests.
With about five people diagnosed with cancer every hour in the North West, Holly is sharing her cancer journey to help motivate men and women in Southport and Merseyside to join the fight against the disease.
Since its launch in 2012, Stand Up To Cancer has raised more than £38m to pay for research and save more lives.
By taking part in the film, Holly hopes to draw attention to the impact cancer research has had on her life – giving her more precious time to do the things that she loves.
Holly was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, aged 15, and was knocked for six when doctors were unable to A guided visit to Lisbon, Portugal’s historic capital
Free time to enjoy the city’s pre-Christmas atmosphere
Visit to UNESCO-listed Évora, with its Roman ruins
Christmas dinner at the hotel
Fully escorted by a friendly, experienced tour manager
Seven nights’ four-star half-board hotel accommodation, return flights and transfers assure her she would ever dance again after side effects left her needing crutches as she was too weak to even walk.
But she has bounced back and is sharing her experience in the hope of inspiring and motivating other young people who face the disease.
Holly was a keen dancer – training six days a week after school – and had gained been very lucky to get a place for a week at a prestigious dance summer school in London.
But during the first warm-up class she felt faint.
She was able to continue but it was obvious to her parents at the end-ofweek show she was not performing at her best.
She continued to feel tired, weak and had no appetite on a family holiday to France and, on her first day back at school in Swansea, where the family lived at the time, Holly felt out of breath and had a bad headache.
Her mother, who is a scientist, and father, a doctor, were concerned and results from a blood test confirmed there was a problem and they took her to A&E.
She was transferred to a specialist oncology unit where tests confirmed she had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
For the next two years, Holly underwent treatment, including chemotherapy, and had to return to hospital many times because of complications and gruelling side effects.
Although she was only able to attend school occasionally she was determined to finish her GCSEs with the help of a home tutor when she was well enough.
She said: “I had been advised to take a year out to have the treatment, but I wanted something to focus on and distract me. Going to school was hard because 15-year-olds don’t know what to say when they are faced with someone who has cancer.
“I felt very insecure and embarrassed at how I looked.
“Steroids made me puffy and bloated, I had lost all my hair by then and the drugs affected my skin.”
But her hard work and determination were rewarded with 11 GCSE passes, including one A* and eight As.
Although still undergoing treatment, by the time she had started at college,her hair had begun to grow back and she gave up wearing a wig.
She then achieved three As and a B at A-level.
In her second year at college, her father was offered a job in Liverpool.
The family agreed it would be good for Holly to have a fresh start and they moved to Southport where she attended school. In her first year there she won a Student of the Year Award for the energy and effort she put into studying humanity and the arts.
Holly is now in her third year studying English at Nottingham University.
Recalling her rollercoaster journey through cancer treatment she said: “I was aware that the chemotherapy treatment could make my bones weak and the side-effects may not be temporary.
“I suffered tingling in my hands and feet and I needed to use crutches because my ankles were so weak.
“I ask the doctor if I would ever dance again.
“He said he couldn’t answer that.
“That knocked me for six and made me feel very sad but I was determined to get back to fitness.”
She is now back to full fitness with the help of regular weight training.
The film shows her walking, rock climbing and weight training.
Holly said: “Cancer has had a huge impact on my life and I want to share my story to inspire people going through a difficult time.
“I’m happier than ever and I finally have my confidence back.
“I stand up to cancer in my own way each and every day, by making it to the gym or posting positive messages about my weight training and healthy eating on my Instagram.
“I’m so grateful for the treatment I’ve received.
“It’s thanks to research I’m still standing, so I want to do everything I can to ensure no-one’s life is cut short by this devastating disease.
“That’s why I’m calling on everyone in Southport and Merseyside to join me and Stand Up To Cancer.
“Research is cancer’s number one enemy. Raising vital funds for life-saving treatments is a great way to get payback on the disease for people like me and all our loved ones who have been affected.”
To get involved, visit standuptocancer.org.uk
Southport student Holly Allen is the star of an inspiring short film encouraging people to Stand Up To Cancer