Belfast Telegraph

Teenager Amy Uprichard defied cancer and chemo to fulfil her ballet dream

BY AMANDA FERGUSON

Nothing was going to stand in the way of Amy Uprichard's dreams of becoming a star ballet dancer.

Not even when the teenager was facing a shock diagnosis of cancer.

The 17-year-old was undergoing chemotherapy last year when the chance to audition for the English Youth Ballet came up.

She knew it was too good an opportunity to pass up – so made an impassioned plea to doctors for a break from chemotherapy so she could try out for an upcoming production of The Sleeping Beauty. Her determination and bravery paid off.

The teen, who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in May last year, will be performing at the Grand Opera House later this month after she bagged a coveted role as a soloist in November.

Amy explained that nothing was going to stand in her way.

"I just said to my doctor that it was something that I would love to do and there aren't many opportunities like this," she said. "He said that as long as I felt fine, he was happy enough to let me go.

"He told me that I would have to go straight from the hospital during the chemo and come straight back again after the audition to carry on the treatment."

Amy's mother brought her dance kit to hospital and then straight to the audition for the Grand Opera House. Amy started treatment a couple of days after diagnosis at the Belfast City Hospital in 2013 and had to spend five weeks in hospital because of immune system problems.

"I still got up and danced around the ward though," she said.

"The chemotherapy started off for the first 10 days and that would wipe out my immune system so it had to be built back up before I was allowed to leave hospital.

"I had four sessions of chemotherapy in all – May, July, September and the last treatment which was the strongest of them all was in November.

"It was during that last treatment that I went to the audition for The Sleeping Beauty."

The adrenalin-fuelled audition for The Sleeping Beauty went well and now Amy is taking part in three shows at the Grand Opera House in Belfast on April 25 and 26. "At the audition I felt really strong and I actually came out of it really pleased with how I did," explained Amy.

"I didn't think that I would've lasted the whole time, especially with the amount of people there was at the audition.

"I think I got by on the adrenaline actually as I was thinking 'I really want this!'

"My mum and my two sisters all watched the audition and I think my mum was nervous that my energy might not last."

She was particularly pleased to be offered a prestigious solo role.

"I dance as one of Aurora's Relatives in the prologue and Act I and then I dance in the Jewel Ballet in Act III and I have a solo which I haven't started rehearsing yet," she said. "I'm really excited as I have never performed a ballet solo on a big stage before."

Dancing with EYB has given Amy confidence and she is determined to pursue dance as a career.

"Last year I was meant to go to ballet school in Scotland at a professional college called Ballet West but my illness meant that I couldn't take up the place," she said.

"I would love to be a professional ballet dancer."

Following medical tests at the start of the year, Amy was informed there was no cancer in her bone marrow and she is now tested every six weeks.

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