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"At 19 years old cancer wasn't something I thought I'd have to go through"

15 June 2017

Amy Allen

Amy Allen was just 19 years old when she was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer. She shares her story and the unique way she has raised money to support Ovarian Cancer Action's research.

"On May 4th 2017, I dressed up in nominated items of clothing to raise awareness of ovarian cancer and raise money for Ovarian Cancer Action.

That week marked two years since my diagnosis of a Sertoli Leydig cell tumour (SLCT). SLCT is a rare ovarian sex-cord stromal tumour that forms less than 0.5% of ovarian tumours.

The Sertoli and Leydig cells are located in the testes of males, with Sertoli cells feeding sperm cells and Leydig cells releasing a male sex hormone. These cells are also found in the ovaries, with cancer cells releasing a male sex hormone causing symptoms such as: a deep voice, enlarged clitoris, facial hair, loss in breast size and stopping of menstrual periods.    

Getting the diagnosis was the scariest day of my life and a memory that will stay with me for a while. At 19 years old and coming towards the end of my first year of university, cancer was not something I thought I'd personally have to go through.

Thankfully, it was just a simple operation to remove all traces, but the fear of the unknown and the impact it had on my life is something no one can prepare you for. 

I had no idea that my ‘symptoms’ were due to an ovarian cancer cell. I hadn't had a period for six months so my mum told me to go to the doctors. Two weeks before I was due to start university I had a blood test and received the results during fresher's week with advice to go to the doctors.

Two weeks later the doctor from home rang me to ensure I was getting checked out, as my testosterone levels were 2.5 times higher than they should be, and my oestrogen levels were significantly lower.

After an ultrasound, MRI and multiple other blood tests and meetings, it was decided to get the unknown cyst removed. 

Seven weeks had passed and I'd had my first period in a year and I thought everything was dandy, especially as I hadn't heard anything. So alone I went to the post-operation appointment.

The nurses couldn’t have been nicer. They explained everything and we had a laugh about the rarity and excitement of a SLCT – the first one in Yorkshire! If I hadn't laughed I would have cried.

"The walk from the hospital was a blur. I remember calling my housemate and we cried."

Amy Allen

It took a while for the news to sink in but when it did I realised I had some important decisions to make. Decisions that had to be mine and mine alone. 

I decided to get my ovary removed in case there was any trace of cancer left. It was the right decision as there was! Thankfully everything else came back clear and has done two years on.

This life changing event made me realise that no-one is safe from cancer and I knew how important raising awareness and money was.

Without money there would be no research and without research I may not be alive today. This is why I dressed up. It grabs peoples' attention and gives them motivation to donate.

I had so much fun baking and looking ridiculous! Thank you to everyone who helped me and donated to help me reach my target of £200."

Do you have a unique fundraising idea? We would love to hear from you! Email fundraising@ovarian.org.uk