In­spi­ra­tional Holly shares can­cer bat­tle

Southport Visiter - - Front Page -

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

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