Sports have always been a massive part of my life. I’ve always been super active, and I was always the keen bean, always the most enthusiastic, I was training every evening and working out before work. I ran marathons and played national league hockey. My nickname was even ‘Hockey Heather’.
So, in 2014, I kept putting my lower back pain down to a bad tackle or something. But when I started to experience intermittent bleeding, I went to my doctor and was referred to hospital, where I was hit totally out of the blue: they found a five-centimetre tumour on my cervix and diagnosed me with a rare and aggressive form of cervical cancer.
Initially my prognosis wasn’t very good. I had a life expectancy of two years, and mine was only the 19th recorded case of that cancer at that time.
I began an aggressive program of treatment: chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and brachytherapy, a form of internal radiotherapy. Fortunately, it all worked really well. Five months after I got my diagnosis, I got the call to say I was in remission.
But it wasn’t a case of life going back to normal. In fact, my life had gone through a complete 180. Chemo had caused a number of side effects, including inducing early menopause which left me dealing with infertility when I was only 27, something I’m not sure I’ll ever get over. I had to deal with chronic lower back pain and fatigue, which is something I really struggled to adapt to; I went from a really active lifestyle to struggling to walk. I even struggled to walk up the steps to my third-floor flat without taking a break.
I woke up to find myself surrounded by paramedics in my room. My husband had found me having a seizure, something I’d never had before.
But I worked hard and eventually managed to run again. Eighteen months after I finished treatment, I even finished the London Marathon for Cancer Research UK. Later, I actually managed to return to playing the same level of hockey I was at before. After finishing my first full...