A teenager who went through the menopause when she was just 15 following cancer treatment has revealed how she’s now studying to become a doctor – after being given just a 20 per cent chance to survive.
Ellie Waters, now 19, from Kettering, Northamptonshire, began the menopause in September 2017 after completing 18 months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy for a rare form of cancer called alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma that attacks the body’s connective tissue.
While studying for her A-levels, the teen began to experience hot flushes, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, low mood and itchy skin and was shocked to discover these were the symptoms of premature menopause.
Ellie Waters, now 19, from Kettering, Northamptonshire, began the menopause in September 2017 after completing 18 months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy for a rare form of cancer called alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma that attacks the body’s connective tissue. She is pictured in hospital
Ellie tried to remain positive throughout her treatment and is now training to help others
The teenager, pictured in hospital, was given just a 20 per cent chance to survive after being diagnosed with the rare form of cancer
But Ellie is trying to look on the positive side, as she revealed her mum, Samantha Waters-Long, 46, hasn’t been through menopause yet but is being helped to know what signs to look out for thanks to tips from her daughter.
Ellie, who is starting medical school this year, explained: ‘When I finished cancer treatment and did my own research, I realised that menopause was going to be a possibility.
What is Rhabdomyosarcoma? A rare form of cancer that develops in soft tissues
Rhabdomyosarcoma is a rare type of sarcoma cancer. It is an aggressive and highly malignant form of cancer.
Sarcomas are cancers that develop in the connective tissues of the body, such as muscle, fat, nerves, blood vessels, bone and cartilage.
The face is a common place to find this type of cancer, as is the soft tissue in the bladder, arms and legs.
Rhabdomyosarcoma is more common in children and teenagers than in adults.
And also, for unknown reasons, is more common in men than women.
Up to 60 new Rhabdomyosarcoma cases are dianogsed each year in the UK.
The treatment for rhabdomyosarcoma depends on the patient, and treatment usually startes with a course of chemotherpay.
But as sarcomas are rare cancers, patients are typically referred to a specialist unit for treatment.
Source: Macmillan Cancer Support
‘When my periods didn’t return after treatment, I accepted it but because I was only young, I just thought that it meant no periods and that was fine by me.
‘Now I’m older, the realisation that I am completely infertile and will not be able to have children of my own has really sank in but I try to remain as positive as I can.
‘Adoption is definitely something I will do in the future.
‘I was given a 20 per cent chance of surviving cancer and I managed that so I try to be grateful for what I have.
‘I have got the odd comment from school friends here and there who would say they wished they could be me because I never have to have a period again but they don’t understand the side effects.
‘I’m on oestrogen patches and hormone replacement therapy but I had to take a gap year to get the symptoms under control because I was really struggling in the beginning.
‘My mum hasn’t been through menopause but I’ve made her more aware so when she does go through it, she knows what the best treatment is and she’ll be able to come to me for advice which is quite cool’.
Samantha added: ‘I remember the doctors pulling me into a room and telling me my daughter had stage four cancer.
‘I instantly assumed she was going to die because that’s the worst stage.
‘It was at that point that they told me she would most likely be infertile by the end of treatment but menopause was never mentioned.
‘I knew about some of the symptoms but not all of them.
‘I didn’t realise the extremities it can get to.
‘She has said to me, it’s alright mum, I’m an expert now so when you go through it, you can come to me.
‘The main tip Ellie has taught me is that it’s so important to get a second opinion and push for better treatment if you’re still suffering.
‘She shocked me with the severity of some of the symptoms.
But Ellie is trying to look on the positive side, as she revealed her mum, Samantha Waters-Long, 46, hasn’t been through menopause yet but is being helped to know what signs to look out for thanks to tips from her daughter (pictured together)
Ellie, who is starting medical school this year, explained: ‘When I finished cancer treatment and did my own research, I realised that menopause was going to be a possibility’. She is pictured with balloons to show her 20% survival rate
Ellie had to retake a year at school after spending the year in hospital
‘She has helped women my age go through menopause and she’s only 19!
‘It’s amazing that she’s raising awareness and using her experience to help people because it really will make a difference.
‘It’s strange that she’s going to be able to help me when I was supposed to be the one to help her’.
When Ellie was first diagnosed with cancer, she was just 14-years-old and sent into treatment straight away.
Ellie is raising awareness for premature menopause caused by cancer treatment)
Ellie is on a series of medication to control symptoms caused by premature menopause
While studying for her A-levels, the teen began to experience hot flushes, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, low mood and itchy skin and was shocked to discover these were the symptoms of premature menopause. She is pictured with her A-level results after getting into medical school
Ellie said: ‘The cancer is a very rare form; only 60 kids in the UK get it every year and it’s very rare for it to appear in teenage girls.
‘I noticed the lump in December 2014 but didn’t go to the doctors until the following August and it was leg pain that pushed me to go to the doctors.
‘The process in diagnosing the condition was fairly slow but when I first found out it was cancer, I was scared because I knew what cancer was and knew what the treatment entailed.
‘The entire experience was mentally and physically draining and had a big impact on my family.
When Ellie was first diagnosed with cancer, she was just 14-years-old and sent into treatment straight away. A year later she found out she was infertile
Ellie endured 18 tough months of chemotherapy. She is now healthy. Pictured in hospital during treatment
‘I was pronounced clear of the cancer in March 2017 and since then, I’ve been trying to handle the menopause’.
Ellie and Samantha fought to get her medication changed after the side effects of menopause were affecting her day-to-day life.
Ellie explained: ‘In the beginning, I kept a lot of it to myself because I like to deal with things in private but when I opened up to my mum about how hard it was, she really tried to get me the support I needed and helped with getting me into a private doctors.
‘I was still in school and the side effects were really affecting my studying so I went on a much stronger medication which definitely eased the symptoms.
‘I have had a lot of time to accept it; it was difficult to open up and talk about because not a lot of people understand how bad the symptoms can be’.
Ellie finished sixth form in March 2020 and received the grades needed to get into medical school at Keele University.
The teen decided to take a year out to focus on her health and work at a nursing home to get first hand patient experience.
She added: ‘I had to repeat a year at school and that was the best decision I’ve ever made because I was really behind.
Ellie finished sixth form in March 2020 and received the grades needed to get into medical school at Keele University. She is pictured now happy and healthy
‘Going to medical school had never even crossed my mind until I was in hospital but I was in awe of my doctors and I knew I wanted to be like them and help people like me.
‘I’m on a much higher dosage of oestrogen now which has really helped to control my menopause symptoms.
‘I work 60 hours a week so it was important for me to control them.
‘I love the fact that my mum will be able to come to me for advice in the future’.
Ellie rung the bell after her treatment ended in March 2017. She is pictured in hospital
Ellie going through radiotherapy, she took a year out of school during her treatments
Mum Samantha said: ‘A lot still isn’t known about menopause and Ellie wants to advocate for more understanding and knowledge for young girls like her.
‘I think it will hit her when she’s older and realises she can’t have children of her own but there are lots of children who need homes and she only looks on the positive side of things.
‘When she first went through menopause, she asked me to get a book from the shop for her which was all about menopause and she wanted me to go because she thought they would just think it was for me!
Ellie has worked on a guide for young women also going through menopause. She is pictured with it
‘My friend has just started menopause and I’ve told her to always get a second opinion; it’s the number one thing Ellie has taught me.
‘I actually offered to be a surrogate for her but she said I would be too old!
‘She uses humour to get through it but I think there will be an element of sadness when she meets someone and realises she’s unable to have her own children.
‘She’s doing an amazing job at helping people like her and I’m glad I have her to go to in the future’.
Ellie was inspired to go into medicine after her experience in hospital. She is pictured in a carehome