Allyson taking a selfie on a walk by the sea in a winter hat and coat smiling to the camera

Allyson’s Story

After her diagnosis, Allyson decided to spend more time focusing on the things that were important to her. Here she talks about her diagnosis, learning to find joy in the small things, and how walking helped her quiet the inner chatter

Walking helped me find something inside me that I didn’t know I had. It’s helped me physically, mentally, and spiritually. Some days I would go walking and really struggle, but every walk I finished I felt like I came home stronger. Cancer was absolute devastation, but it’s given me the opportunity to look at my life.

Breast Cancer

My experience with ovarian cancer started, strangely enough, with a breast cancer diagnosis. At the time this seemed devastating, but it was nothing compared to what was to come. After treatment – which included radiotherapy and a lumpectomy – I decided I wanted to do some fundraising for breast cancer and take part in Moonwalk, a charity event organized by Walk the Walk.

But as I began following the recommended training plan, I started to notice I was having some stomach pains. As a woman you’re so used to having stomach pains – and I was already on medication that could have potentially caused that type of side effect.

Even so, I decided to mention it to my GP and they agreed that the pain was likely down to the medication I was on. I got a new prescription and things seemed to get a bit better.


Soon I began to feel more and more bloated, and despite walking every day I also wasn’t losing any weight. Weight loss had never been the goal, but it was another sign that something wasn’t quite right.

Around this time the entire country was in lockdown due to covid and the main message seemed to be ‘don’t go to your GP, don’t use services unless it’s an emergency’. I worked in the NHS before retirement, so I just followed that rule. I didn’t want to bother them with a ‘tummy ache’.

By late spring I looked five months pregnant. Luckily, when I did eventually get to see my GP they were brilliant - I didn’t have to go backwards and forwards. During my appointment I remember the doctor saying to me, ‘You can’t be that unlucky to have another cancer’.

I was quickly referred for a scan but ended up being admitted to hospital later that week. I had six litres of fluid drained from my abdomen and a few days later I was told I had ovarian cancer.

Thinking Time

Chemo started three weeks after diagnosis, after a further admission due to the bloating, requiring fluid to be drained again. All-in-all I had four rounds of carboplatin and taxol, then surgery, two more chemo sessions and then onto bevacizumab (Avastin).

It was during this time that I decided to start walking again. Initially I think I just wanted to be the best I could be for my surgery and recovery, but by the time I’d finished treatment I’d set myself a goal of walking 1000 miles in 2021.

Allyson taking a selfie on a walk by the sea in a winter hat and coat smiling to the camera

As I quickly realized I was walking a marathon in a week, I wondered could I walk 52 marathons in 52 weeks. I’d finally found a way to turn around the devastation of my diagnosis, and I did it!

Since then, I’ve just carried on walking. Sometimes I walk with my husband and our dog and we’ll talk about all sorts of things – which is really special. Other times I’ll walk alone. Those walks are a bit different but just as important because they allow me some powerful thinking time to focus on what’s important to me.

Living with cancer

People sometimes forget that you’re living with cancer. Recently I went for a scan and the registrar oncologist used the word ‘advanced’ and I broke down. It doesn’t matter how strong or independent you are, when you’re in that clinic and you’re feeling anxious, you suddenly become that vulnerable lady again.

If I'm feeling frightened I face my fears at breakfast and not let them ruin the rest of my day. Reframing it in my head helps me manage it. The power of words is so amazing – your own inner chatter can take you back to that darkness and so I try to think ‘yes, I've been dealt these cards but I’m not going to let it define who I am or ruin my days’.

Now I focus on the things that bring me joy – walking, sitting with a cup of green tea, reading, doing a little bit in the garden in all weathers, sewing, reconnecting with people. I have joy in my life every single day.

If you’ve been affected by this story and would like to speak to a specialist nurse, you can call our dedicated support line on 020 7923 5475 or contact us: [email protected]. We're open from 9am until 5.30pm, Monday to Friday.

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