By Hannah Phillips
A teenager who beat cancer aged 14 has vowed to become a doctor – in tribute to the medics who saved her life.
Ellie Waters, now 18, had originally planned to become ‘the female Alan Sugar’ when she grew up but was forced to put her education on hold when she was diagnosed with Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare soft tissue cancer, in September 2015.
But during her 18 months being treated at The Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, the teen found a passion for medicine thanks to the doctors that treated her.
Ellie, who is taking A Levels in biology, chemistry and maths to help achieve her dream, now hopes to go on to a medicine degree next year to become a paediatric oncologist to help other young people battle the disease.
The teenager, from Wellingborough, Northants, said: “I’ve always been really career driven.
“Originally I wanted to be the female version of Alan Sugar, but now I’ve realised money isn’t everything.
“I never wanted to be a doctor before, but I found a passion for medicine watching my doctors when I was in hospital.
“I’ve chosen the A Levels I’m doing so I can become a doctor.
“Having cancer completely changed me. I don’t associate with the person I was before.
“I don’t think I would have considered medicine as a career if I didn’t have cancer.
“I hadn’t been exposed to it but I didn’t find the inspiration until I saw it myself.
“Even though cancer is terrible, I’m glad it happened. It made me more mature and it brought me onto a new path.”
Ellie was 14 when she found a lump in her left buttock but ignored it for weeks because she was too embarrassed to tell anyone.
Then, when the sporty teenager started to feel a pain in her leg cross country running, she went to the GP who rushed her to the hospital for surgery to remove what they thought was an abscess.
Ellie said: “Because of where the lump was, I didn’t want to tell anyone.
“At first I thought maybe it was haemorrhoids. But it got bigger and bigger, so then I thought it was an abscess.
“It never even crossed my mind that it could have been cancer.
“My left leg was hurting so much but I didn’t link it, I just thought I was really unlucky with all these different problems.
“It wasn’t until they cut the lump open that they realised what it was.”
Diagnosed with Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, Ellie was given a 20 per cent chance of survival and had to endure a gruelling 18 months of chemo and 28 sessions of radiotherapy.
She spent one month in hospital when she was first diagnosed and had to return for three days every three weeks where she watched medics take control of her illness.
Ellie said: “Every day felt like Groundhog Day
“My hair fell out, I felt sick.
“I found that when you’re ill, you feel vulnerable and everything is out of your control but the doctors had control of everything and could put it all back together.
“They can fix people and take the responsibility away from the patient.”
Ellie had previously been very athletic, playing football and enjoying cross country running, but was forced to give up these sports as she battled the disease
Instead, she unleashed her creative juices by blogging and vlogging about her experiences.
Ellie said as well as introducing her to her dream job, having cancer brought her twin sister, Olivia, 18, closer together.
After she was officially given the all clear in March 2017, Olivia and her four other siblings Corey, 21, Bailey, 11, James, 14, Kameron, seven, and Mayson, five, were delighted.
She said: “Before I was diagnosed, Olivia and I didn’t get on at all, we are polar opposites.
“We used to share a bedroom but we had to be separated because we argued so much.
“Something like cancer makes you forget all the stupid stuff and embrace your differences and appreciate spending time together.
“Everything was a competition before, competing to be the most popular twin but now, even though, we’re chalk and cheese, we like to spend time together.
“Cancer also brought me a newfound confidence because when I spent time in hospital on my own, I had to become my own best friend.”
Ellie’s dream of becoming a doctor has come despite there being no medics in her family, and she is supported by stay-at-home mum, Samantha, 45, and estate agent dad, Andrew, 41.
As well as studying for her A Levels, which she will sit in May next year, Ellie is focusing on improving her fitness so she can take up her favourite hobbies of football and cross country running again.
She is also preparing to go to Exeter University in 2021 to study medicine.
But as well as delaying her education for one year, the chemotherapy left Ellie’s ovaries and uterus severely damaged and forced her body into early menopause, meaning she can’t carry children.
Ellie is now on hormone replacement therapy to prevent her hot flushes, aches and tiredness.
But she said despite the shocking side effects of her cancer treatment, she would go through it all again because it’s made her the person she is today.
She said: “My ovaries are damaged to the extreme they didn’t produce hormones anymore and my uterus is scarred up so I’m infertile.
“I didn’t care that much when I first found out because I had been through so much.
“It was five months into treatment, I was in survival mode – as long as I was alive in the next five years and was happy.
“But I’m sure it will affect me more in the future.
“People at school would say ‘I wish I wouldn’t get my period’.
“There’s no understanding, it’s so much more than that.
“I had no one to talk to. I wasn’t going to ask my nan about the menopause.
“Now to have children adoption is my only option but I’m happy about that. I’ll feel like I’m giving something back.”