I’ve just read about this young girl in a newspaper and thought i’d share. What a truly amazing young lady.
When 14-year-old Sarah Martin's stomach bloated and swelled, doctors were convinced she must be pregnant. The reality was much worse, she had a very rare cancer for her age - but against the odds she survived.
As the doctor examined her bloated stomach 14-year-old Sarah Martin squirmed with embarrassment and discomfort.
The doctor at the hospital was convinced that his teenage patient was expecting. A test had come back negative but her hard, swollen belly displayed all the signs of pregnancy - yet Sarah knew it was impossible.
"I definitely wasn't pregnant!" she says. "It felt odd and embarrassing that people thought I could be."
Sarah's stomach had begun to swell four months earlier.
"At first I just thought I was putting on weight," the schoolgirl recalls. "But I was embarrassed and kept it to myself."
However, Sarah's predicament did not go unnoticed by her carer Janice Paddey, 52, who noted that some of the teenager's clothes were getting quite tight and decided to keep a close eye on her.
By March 2009 there was no escaping the fact Sarah had gone three months without her period.
She confided in Janice who promptly took her to the doctor. The GP insisted that Sarah take a pregnancy test but it came back negative.
Her doctor then assumed her menstruation problems were related to the medication she took for epilepsy, until Sarah's stomach began to change shape.
For the next few months Janice continued to monitor Sarah, who was still putting on weight despite eating a balanced diet.
By the end of July Janice was very concerned. Sarah's appetite had diminished, she was lethargic and her belly remained swollen. "She was coming home from school so exhausted that she'd go straight to bed for a nap," explains Janice.
"Sarah was normally such a lively and bubbly girl. When I noticed that her complexion had also taken on bluish tinge I knew that something was very wrong."
That night Sarah woke up at 11.30pm, writhing in agony. "She had hardly eaten a scrap of food all day," Janice recalls.
"And now she was in bed, screaming in agony. I rushed her straight to hospital." The doctor was shocked to see the size of Sarah's stomach. He was adamant she was seven months' pregnant and insisted on another pregnancy test. The result quickly ruled out a baby but the doctor told Sarah that he could still feel a solid mass in her abdomen.
She was admitted as her temperature soared and given intravenous antibiotics. The doctors told Janice they thought she had an infection.
"I was really frightened," admits Sarah. "I didn't have a clue what was happening to me."
Her condition rapidly deteriorated - she was weak and lethargic, unable to keep down any food. After four days of tests, including an ultrasound, Sarah's consultant arrived with his team.
"Suddenly the room filled with medical staff," says Janice. "They began to explain to us that they'd found something. The consultant said it looked like a malignant tumour and that they thought Sarah had ovarian cancer. I just couldn't believe it.
"I'd been convinced Sarah had appendicitis. Ovarian cancer was a women's disease and Sarah was just 14. I didn't think children could get something like that.
"Never in a million years had I thought it was cancer - nothing could prepare you for that."
Janice was right - the cancer was extraordinarily rare in someone so young. Poor Sarah also found the diagnosis hard to comprehend and admits she didn't really understand what the doctors were telling her.
"When they said it was ovarian cancer, I didn't really get it," she says. "I just knew that I felt ill. In the end the doctor and a nurse had to draw me a picture to explain what was happening to me."
Next Sarah's consultant revealed that the teenager would need surgery to remove the cancerous mass.
Only a week after she was first admitted to hospital, the full severity of Sarah's condition was revealed when she underwent a four-hour operation to remove the cancer.
Horrifically the fast growing tumour had spread from her right ovary up to her breastbone and had entwined itself around her bowel.
As a result surgeons were forced to remove Sarah's left ovary along with her fallopian tube and appendix.
She explains: "The tumour measured 23 centimetres. It was bigger than my head! No wonder my stomach was so swollen."
Despite the extent of the tumour, the skilled medics managed to save Sarah's right ovary although she bears a permanent reminder of the surgery - a scar which stretches from hip to hip.
Sadly Sarah's battle was not over yet. In the operating theatre doctors discovered more tumours in the lining of her stomach which would need chemotherapy treatment.
Janice's major concern was that this could leave Sarah infertile at such a young age. She was well aware that her chances of motherhood had already been effectively halved with the loss of one ovary.
"At 14, children were the last thing on Sarah's mind, but I knew that one day she would want to be a mum," says Janice.
Thankfully Sarah's oncologist was able to suggest a new, less toxic, type of chemo which could treat Sarah's germ cell cancer (the type normally found in youngsters) without affecting her fertility.
But for a normal teenage girl like Sarah, there was another pressing concern - losing her long brown hair. "I was worried that I might get teased at school," she admits. "But once I told people I had ovarian cancer, they just accepted it.
"Everyone was really supportive and my best friend even made a timetable of when I'd be in for treatment so she could look out for me."
Sarah started her gruelling four courses of chemo in September last year. Although she held on to her hair for a while, it continued to thin and in December she was finally forced to shave off the remaining strands. "I wouldn't look in a mirror for 45 minutes after it was shaved," Sarah says. "But when I did, I realised that it wasn't so bad after all. As a way of compensating I would use body art with pretty colours and gems to decorate my head."
Meanwhile Sarah was given some encouraging news.
The chemotherapy was shrinking the secondary tumours and her oncologist was hopeful she would respond well to further treatment.
"When we heard the news Janice and I just jumped up and down," Sarah laughs. "It spurred me on and made me determined to beat cancer.
"Now I just want to do well at school and also in life."
It was during her time in hospital that Sarah became involved with a charity called PACT. This funds a house near the hospital where families can stay together while their children are treated.
Sarah formed close friendships at the house and both she and Janice benefited from the friendship and support.
"The other families have been a lifeline," says Janice. "Like one great big family. Everyone supports one another." Now Sarah's chemo has ended she has spent the time since catching up on school work via the web, and raising hundreds of pounds for PA C T by selling cards, bangles, key rings and money boxes, and organising events.
The teenager's treatment is still in the early stages and she undergoes checks every six weeks. But the long-term prognosis is very positive.
Although she faces more tough times ahead, Sarah, now 15, appears to be taking everything in her stride. "Sarah's positive attitude has kept her going," says Janice.
"In fact, it's kept us all going. She never feels sorry for herself, she just gets on with it."
Sarah adds: "This has shown me how quickly things can change in your life and to appreciate what you have."
What is ovarian cancer?
It's the second-most common gynaecological cancer in the UK and affects more than 6,800 women a year.
Cervical screening tests (smear tests) will not help to detect it.
Germ cell tumours - the ovarian cancer that Sarah has - make up just 3% of malignant ovarian tumours, so they are rare. They tend to occur in young women (the majority aged between 10 and 30) and adolescents and if managed correctly have a good prognosis.
According to Cancer Research UK, in 2006 only 15 cases of ovarian cancer were recorded in the UK in the 10 to 14 age bracket. A spokeswoman for support network Ovacome said: "It is extremely rare for a girl of 14 to develop ovarian cancer."
Symptoms can include lower abdominal pain, back pain, swollen abdomen and irregular periods although some people have no symptoms.
For more information on ovarian cancer, visit www.ovacome.org.uk or call 0845 371 0554.