“You can take on things that you think are much bigger than yourself, because you grow in the process.”
Back in 2007, Heather Hawkins was by her own admission, a desperately unfit and busy mum of 2.
Then one day she visited her doctor after noticing some unusual symptoms she initially attributed to the ‘middle age’ spread, enjoying Christmas a little too much and even menopause.
A scan later the same day revealed the shocking news - Heather was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Often known as the “forgotten disease”, it has vague everyday symptoms which can be attributed to everything from the middle age spread, peri-menopause and menopause, to even simply enjoying the good things in life a little too much.
Sadly this can make it hard for many women to recognise the symptoms and seek treatment in time, so the survival rate is shockingly low - just 43% over 5 years (as opposed to 90% for breast cancer and 94% for prostate cancer).
Fortunately, Heather has not only survived but thrived in the years since.
And just 6 years ago, she took up running.
She then Heather has gone on to finish:
* the North Pole Marathon, where she won the women’s division and finished 8th overall
* the World Marathon Challenge, which is 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days,
* the Volcano Marathon in Chile, which is held at over 4,000m in altitude, and
* earlier this year, the Marathon des Sables, a 250km, 7 day stage race across the Sahara Desert in Morocco.
Plus she’s hiked the 1,700km Great Himalaya Trail across the Nepalese Himalayas with her children in an adventure that took over 5 months.
In this conversation we discuss:
* the signs and symptoms she noticed that led her to visit her doctor in 2007,
* the importance of trusting your intuition and seeking medical attention as soon as you notice something (and not putting it off because it’s “probably nothing”, you’re just “over-reacting” or because you’re busy and you have other things to do),
* how getting practical enabled her to control her thoughts and not let her imagination get the better of her during her treatment and recovery,
* whether she experiences ‘survivors guilt’,
* her first fun run,
* how she came to be on the start line of the North Pole Marathon just 3 years after she started running,
* the World Marathon Challenge as well as the Great Himalaya Trail,
* the fear of failure, and
* what it’s like to see herself on the big screen; Heather is starring of a documentary about her experience at the Marathon des Sables which is currently being shown at the Run Nation Film Festival.
Notes and resources:
For more information about ovarian cancer, visit Ovarian Cancer Australia
You can locations and dates for the Run Nation Film Festival here.