A teenager – who was horribly hungover – ended up being diagnosed with cancer after her appendix ruptured.
When Amber Orr, from Ballymena, Northern Ireland, woke up in unbearable pain with extreme nausea, she thought it was the result of a drinking the night before.
Days later, with no improvement, her mum took the then 19-year-old to hospital.
Doctors rushed her into the operating theatre for an emergency appendectomy, but two weeks later, Amber learned the true reason the rupture had happened.
Amber had a cancerous neuroendocrine mass – a rare tumour that release hormones into the bloodstream – which was also present in her bowel.
‘I had never thought I had cancer,’ Amber, now 24, said. ‘I had been out partying with friends, so when I woke up feeling sick, I blamed it on being hungover. But as the day progressed, I realised it wasn’t a hangover.
‘I kept getting this unbearable pain in my side and I was throwing up.
‘After two days of this, my mum took me to the hospital. They monitored me overnight, suspecting a possible UTI.
‘Another two days later, one of my doctors sent me to surgery because my appendix had ruptured.’
Amber then needed surgery again to remove the rest of the tumour, followed by chemotherapy to kill any surviving cells.
Speaking of the moment she received the news, she said: ‘I didn’t feel anything.
‘It was more of a numbness… I didn’t properly digest the information until months later. Cancer is such a taboo word and subject and to hear it out loud is such a surreal thing.
‘My diagnosis also happened so fast that I honestly didn’t have time to even think about what was happening to me until the whole thing was over.’
Half of her bowel was removed, which eliminated the mass and she didn’t require further treatment.
She has had a few scares since, but no reoccurrences, and has now been in remission for four years.
The psychological scars, however, have been harder to overcome.
She said: ‘I can’t count the number of hours I’ve spent crying and breaking down because of how cancer has made me feel.
‘Whether that be physically, from the scars on my body, or mentally, from the anxiety and depression from treatment and fear of it returning.
‘You don’t realise just how much cancer impacts your mental health.
‘My mental health didn’t take a hit until after I was in remission.’
Amber is now using her experience to raise awareness of the long-term effects of cancer and the importance of early detection.
She said: ‘If my appendix hadn’t burst, I wouldn’t have found my cancer until it was terminal.
‘I try to use my story to encourage others to check themselves and listen to their bodies.
‘I also want to give them the confidence to book appointments and stand up for themselves when they feel something isn’t right.
‘Cancer doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter your age, gender, or race.
‘I want to give back to the places that helped, like the Teenage Cancer Trust and Young Lives vs. Cancer by fundraising, because without the help of their social workers and nurses, I know for a fact I couldn’t have made it out the other side.’
Amber is now ready to start a degree in social work, and hopes to work with cancer patients via the NHS.
‘If I can help even one person the way that they helped me, I know that I’ll be doing something right,’ she added.
‘As much as cancer has changed my life, it doesn’t define who I am.
‘It shouldn’t get to take over my life and make me afraid to live.’
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