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  1. Published on: 15/05/2018 03:11 PMReported by: roving-eye
    A SOUTHPORT cancer survivor – who feared she’d never dance again after being diagnosed with cancer at 15 - is calling on women to join the fight against the disease by entering Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life.



    Holly Allen, a former Merchant Taylors’ Girls’ School student, is encouraging women of all ages and abilities to sign up to Southport Race for Life 5k, 10k event on Sunday 3 June at Princes Park, on Marine Drive.



    When Holly was diagnosed with cancer, aged just 15, her immediate dread was losing her beautiful long blond hair due to the gruelling treatment she knew she faced to save her life.



    But worse was to come.



    As a passionate and accomplished dancer, Holly was completely knocked for six when doctors were unable to assure her she would ever dance again after side effects left her needing crutches as she was too weak to even walk.



    But Holly has spectacularly bounced back and she is sharing her cancer experience in the hope of inspiring and motivating other young people to fight the disease.



    Holly, who is now 20, was a keen dancer - training six days a week after school - and had been very lucky to get a place for a week at a prestigious dance summer school in London.



    But during the very first warm-up class Holly felt faint. She was able to continue but it was obvious to her parents at the end-of-week show she was not performing at her best.



    When they went on a family holiday to France, Holly looked pale and continued to feel tired, weak and had no appetite.



    She felt increasingly unwell on her return home but she still didn’t think it was anything serious.



    The family were living in Swansea at the time and on her first day back at Bishopston Comprehensive School, Holly felt out of breath and had a bad headache.



    Her mother, who is a scientist, and father, a doctor, were by now so concerned they arranged for Holly to have a blood test.



    The results confirmed there was a problem and they immediately took Holly to their local A and E.



    Holly said: “That night the roller coaster began”.



    She was transferred to a specialist oncology unit where tests confirmed she had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.



    “It was a massive shock. When my parents told me what was wrong, I still had no idea it was a type of cancer until my dad explained it to me.



    “My first thought was ‘Am I going to lose my hair’. For a 15-year-old with long golden, curly hair, that was the worst thing.”



    Holly remained in hospital for a month while her chemotherapy treatment got underway.



    During two years of treatment she had to return to hospital many times because of complications and gruelling side effects.



    Although Holly 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.



    “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 I had to take made me puffy and bloated, I had lost all my hair by then and the drugs affected my skin.”



    But Holly was very proud when her hard work and determination was rewarded with 11 GCSE passes, including one A* and eight As.



    Although still undergoing treatment, by the time Holly had left school and started at Gorseinon College in Swansea her hair had started to grow back and she decided to ditch wearing a wig.



    She found it daunting but still managed to pass three As and a B at A-level.



    However, Holly was relieved when, in her second year at college, her father was offered a new job in Liverpool as she had felt very isolated and found it difficult to make friends where she was.



    The family agreed it would be good for Holly to have a fresh start and they moved to Southport where Holly attended Merchant Taylors’ Girls’ School.



    The teenager, who was still having treatment, found it helped being with a new group of people who only knew her as she was then and not as she used to be.



    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 roller coaster 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. It depended if whether or not I could bounce back.



    “That knocked me for six and made me feel very sad. But I was determined to get back to fitness”.



    Holly started walking short distances with members of her family and gradually went further and further until she got stronger.



    She is now back to full fitness with the help of regular weight training.



    She added: “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.”



    Holly took part in Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life for the first time a year after her treatment finished to give herself a goal to get back to fitness and plans to run again this year.



    She added: “I’m determined to help others by raising money so Cancer Research UK can ensure even more men, women and children survive. So I’m urging women in Southport to come together and unite at Race for Life because every participant can help make a real difference.”



    Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, is an inspiring women-only series of 5k, 10k, Pretty Muddy, Half Marathon and Hiking events which raise millions of pounds every year to help beat cancer sooner by funding crucial research.



    Sarah Hunter, Cancer Research UK’s Southport Events Manager, said: “Crucial cancer research is being funded right now thanks to women, just like Holly, running, jogging or walking at Race for Life.



    “By following Holly’s lead, and signing up to Race for Life, women in Southport can make a real difference in the fight against cancer. Money raised will help Cancer Research UK scientists and doctors find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease, helping save more lives.”


    To enter Race for Life today visit raceforlife.org or call 0300 123 0770.

    Race for Life events in Merseyside



    5k Events in Merseyside

    Southport – Princes Park – 3 June

    Liverpool - Aintree Racecourse – 17 June

    Wirral - Birkenhead Park - 1 July

    Liverpool – Sefton Park – 8 July

    Haydock Park Racecourse – 15 July



    10k Events in Merseyside

    Southport – Princes Park – 3 June

    Liverpool - Aintree Racecourse – 17 June

    Wirral - Birkenhead Park - 1 July

    Liverpool – Sefton Park – 8 July

    Haydock Park Racecourse – 15 July



    Pretty Muddy Events in Merseyside

    Wirral - Birkenhead Park - 30 June

    Liverpool – Sefton Park – 7 July



    Pretty Muddy Kids Events in Merseyside

    Wirral - Birkenhead Park – 30 June

    Liverpool – Sefton Park – 7 July
       

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