Yorkshire teenager helping others after tumour the size of a melon found in rare ovarian cancer battle

Teenager Tabitha Wood, battling a rare ovarian cancer at just 13, had fought to stay stoic even as the surgeons removed a tumour the size of a melon.

Monday, 14th October 2019, 6:00 pm

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Two years on and now in remission, Tabitha has helped to raise nearly £23,000 to thank those those that saved her life.

Every penny, she hopes, could make the cancer battle less harrowing for others.

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Tabitha Wood was diagnosed with a very rare ovarian cancer when she was 13, two years ago. The Bradford Grammar School student, from Burley-in-Wharfedale, wanted to thank the people that saved her life and decided to cycle from Charing Cross hospital to Leeds, raising over 22k. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

"What I went through was quite sad, I didn't want other people to feel like that," says the now 15-year-old Bradford Grammar School student, from Burley-in-Wharfedale.

"I thought if I could help, that would be really nice.

"Cancer is the last thing you think about, until it happens," she adds. "I didn't think it could be anything that serious, I didn't feel that bad."

Diagnosis and treatment

Tabitha Wood, 15, with mother Sarah at the family home in Burley-in-Wharfedale. The teenager is in remission from a rare ovarian cancer which was diagnosed with at just 13. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

In Autumn 2017, Tabitha had started to feel unwell. Already slight, she was losing weight, and becoming very pale.

Feeling a lump in her stomach, her parents had taken her to the GP and she was referred for blood tests at Leeds General Infirmary.

"I thought it would just go away," she said. "They knew it was cancer from the first day. The doctor came and sat with me, they said 'I'm sorry but this is what it is'."

The ovarian cancer that Tabitha had is very rare in the UK, with only around 40 cases diagnosed every year.

Teenager Tabitha Wood, pictured in the days after she underwent major five-hour surgery at Leeds General Infirmary to remove a tumour the size of a melon. Now aged 15, she is in remission. Picture family own.

Her parents, Sarah and Adrian Wood, had approached the world leader in this field, Prof Seckl in London, to work with oncologists at LGI over Tabitha's care.

Diagnosed within days, doctors were able to operate immediately. They removed a grade-three tumour so large it was the same size as a 20-week baby, growing inside her.

Strength and resilience

Today, Tabitha grins as she recalls how excited the surgeons were, taking pictures of the mass, with two hospitals fighting over the right to research it further.

Bradford Grammar School student Tabitha Wood, now aged 15, wanted to help others after she battled rare ovarian cancer. With her father Adrian Wood and brother Ben, 19, they competed a cross-country cycle ride, and have raised nearly 23,000 for the teenage cancer ward at LGI and Hannah's Willbery Wonder Pony charity. Image: Bruce Rollinson.

"They didn't make it seem as if I were really ill," says Tabitha. "I didn't think about what could happen, just what was happening really.

"I tried not to worry too much about it, because you can't really help it."

She's always been incredibly practical over what was happening, says her mother Sarah Wood, 50.

"Tabby is so resilient," adds Mrs Wood. "She just gets on with it, no matter what happened she just dealt with it.

"She's very stoic, never complaining, never wanting anything to be different.

"She could have taken a year out of school, she hasn't. She could have dropped subjects, she hasn't. She's just kept on, and keeps keeping on."

Giving back

Tabitha is now in remission, though there is a 25 per cent chance the cancer will return and she has regular scans and tests.

But, a keen rider who competes in dressage and who has ridden for England, she feels fighting fit and wants to give a little back.

Having met with her consultants to see how she could help others on the teenage cancer ward at LGI, Tabitha set herself a fundraising challenge.

While a sponsored bike ride may seem a drop in the ocean against NHS reserves, the family has smashed all targets, raising nearly £23,000.

Tabitha, who hadn't really ridden a bike until July, was accompanied by her father and brother Ben, 19, on the 240 mile ride over the course of six days.

They were seen off from Charing Cross Hospital by Prof Seckl, and met by consultants at LGI. With donations, Tabitha hopes to buy a new television for inside the MRI machine on the teenage cancer ward, and she has just been shortlisted in two separate categories of the Bradford Community Stars awards

"It's been quite overwhelming, the support," adds Mrs Wood. "But there's a really big reason behind it.

"I've never seen Tabitha so animated as when she knew that she could do something to make others' lives a bit better when they are having such a difficult time."

The Wood family are funding for the Leeds Children's Hospital and Hannah's Willbery Wonder Pony charity, to find out more search JustGiving or click here.