In November 2016, my 18 year old sister, Tamsin, went to A&E with abdominal pains. After some scans, it became apparent that she had a large tumour in her abdomen. After surgery in December, in which a particularly large tumour was removed, it was found to have been a rare form of ovarian cancer, with fewer than 50 UK cases a year, which predominantly affects those aged 16-35. This form of ovarian cancer, an immature teratoma, is a 'germ cell' tumour, a category which also includes most forms of testicular cancer as well as 1-3% of ovarian cancer cases.
Although Tamsin recovered and the cancer was removed while it was in a fairly early phase, there is still a lack of knowledge about germ cell tumours in general and in particular the symptoms which they cause. Germ cell tumours generally have very high treatment rates, over 90%, when found early enough, but in a lot of cases people do not recognise the signs and symptoms and it is not detected until later stages when treatment can be less likely to have success. The Robin Cancer Trust was set up in 2012 after the death of Robin Freeman and aims to educate young adults, those most likely to have germ cell tumours, about how to spot the early warning signs. This is done through campaigns both online and in the 'real world', particularly on university campuses throughout England. It is the only charity in the UK which focuses on germ cell tumours.
To raise money for this cause, I will be walking the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge in the first weekend of July 2017. The challenge is to walk the three highest fells in Yorkshire within 12 hours. The route is around 24 miles (39km) in length and climbs the three fells of Pen-y-Ghent (2,277ft/694m), Whernside (2,415ft/736m) and Ingleborough (2,372ft/723m), which lie in the Ribblesdale area of the Yorkshire Dales, with the start and finish point being the village of Horton-in-Ribblesdale. Although none of these peaks are particularly high compared to those in Cumbria or Wales, let alone abroad, the main challenge of the walk is the terrain. The Pennines are often boggy and uneven underfoot and the bleak landscape can make navigation harder, even on fairly well-defined routes. Each fell has to be climbed and descended from in turn, there is no ridge linking any of them, greatly increasing the total climbing for the route.