HELEN Boughen has fought many battles in her life.

She has had 12 operations in her fight against cancer as well as undergoing facial surgery.

But now she feels like she is up against an even bigger challenge and fears this is one she might not win.

Since graduating with a physics degree from the University of Birmingham last year, the 25-year-old from Pontshill, near Ross-on-Wye, has found it impossible to find work.

Her mother Pauline said she does not know whether this is down to the economy – or if it is down to the way Helen looks.

“The job market is awful at the moment, but it seems that people with science degrees are getting some form of employment,” said Pauline.

“I have spoken to people at the hospital where I work and we are going along the side of that it may be down to the way she looks.

“It seems so unfair for someone who has been through everything she has that she cannot find a job.”

Since graduating, Helen has applied for many positions, including ones in the NHS and as a waitress at a café.

“She has got a science degree, so why can’t she even get a part-time job as a waitress?” asked Pauline.

“She gets really good feedback when she gets an interview, saying that her presentation was good, but some of the reasons they give about her not getting it are a bit paper thin.

“I think that she didn’t get the waitress job because they wanted her in there serving people.”

Helen, who was diagnosed with a facial tumour in 2004, receives a disability allowance because she finds walking difficult and can only see in one eye.

But she has never complained and keeps busy by volunteering for the WRVS and attending a bridge club every Wednesday.

“She is OK in Ross because people know her, but if she goes to Hereford or Gloucester people do stare, which is sad in this day and age,” said Pauline.

“She still needs more operations and needs more teeth removed and hasn’t had much of a life since she was 17.

“I just feel so sad for her that she can’t get a job,” she said.