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Amy Baker: "I want women to know the symptoms and to not leave diagnosis until it's too late"

12 June 2020

Amy Baker

Amy comes from a cycling family and when she lost her grandmother to ovarian cancer, she signed up with her Mum to take part in a Women V Cancer event. Four years of cycling later, she shares her story to raise awareness in the hope that women will be diagnosed sooner.

"In the summer of 2016, at a very small B&B on the island of Rhodes, my mum and I got talking to a man wearing a cycling t-shirt. It interested me, as I am from a cycling family. My grandad began racing at the age of 12, and he met my nan at a cycling club. We got to talking about cycling, and he asked whether we did any. We both said no, we were terrible, etc, but that we had other family who did. His wife then told us about an event called Ride the Night. Ladies only, 100km through the night, raising money for Women Vs Cancer. One of the three charities supported is Ovarian Cancer Action. I didn’t think much more about it, aside from feeling a bit guilty that I hadn’t followed in my grandparents’ cycling footsteps, until I got home and looked the event up. It was taking place on the day my nan had died; she had died because of ovarian cancer. I called my mum: we were doing this. I then went to buy a bike...

It is now almost four years later and I’ve not looked back. Cycling for this charity gave me a reason to get on my bike, to get better, fitter and I actually started to enjoy it. I am now part of my local cycling club and I run a local social ride group as well. In August, I plan to take part in the Prudential Ride London 100. It will be my toughest challenge to date. I will have the pleasure of riding alongside my mum, aunty and friend, who have all sadly lost their mums to this deadly disease.

"I want women to know the symptoms, to be able to go their GPs and tell them they want to be tested, and to not leave diagnosis until it's too late."

Amy Baker

As a primary school teacher, most of my training for Ride London was happening at weekends, and I often went out with my mum and my friend. We were also riding with my aunty from time to time, but with a two-hour drive between our towns, this happened less often. Then coronavirus put a stop to all of that. I feel very lucky that we are still allowed to exercise outside daily. I have had to change the focus of my rides. Before coronavirus, I would aim for distance, covering 40-50 miles where I could, and then my plan was to do a few longer rides as we got closer. I can no longer do this. I also miss my training buddies! 

I now plan a 20-mile route, and have goals that revolve around speed and improving my time on my local hill climbs. Because I now work from home most days, I can get out every day. Across a week, I am actually covering more miles. I use an app to track my rides and my progress, and I can also see how my buddies are doing on it too. Those would be my tips for anyone in a similar situation: adjust your goals in line with what you can achieve in the situation we are in, and work on those. I don’t think I’d be cycling as often if I didn’t have those goals. 

I also remind myself of why I am doing this. A huge part of my motivation is raising awareness for others. When my friend lost her mum to ovarian cancer around 20 years ago, not much was known about it. When I lost my nan, quite a few years after this, little more was known. For a long while, her symptoms were attributed to IBS, and it was too late by the time ovarian cancer had been diagnosed. I want women to know the symptoms, to be able to go their GPs and tell them they want to be tested, and to not leave diagnosis until it's too late. It was too late for my nan, but it does not have to be too late for others." 

Find out more about taking part in a sporting challenge here.

Amy's nan Brenda will be part of our Tribute Wall, her name will join the many women that inspire and motivate our scientists everyday. Learn more about the Tribute Wall that sits in the heart of our research centre here.