Written by Catherine Blake
In July 2005 I gave birth to my beautiful son Jack. After a really tough 9 weeks of Jack being poorly and undergoing two operations in Hospital we thought we could begin our new exciting chapter.
However, in December 2005, we had just come back from holiday and went to visit some family. We had only been at my relative’s house for 15 minutes when my health started to deteriorate rapidly. I lost my speech and my vision and eventually collapsed before being rushed to Wigan Infirmary.
The next few weeks became very worrying, the doctors at had no idea what was wrong with me.
Finally, in January 2006 I was transferred from Wigan Infirmary to Weston Park Cancer Hospital in Sheffield and was put under the care of Professor Hancock. Professor Hancock said I could have Cancer, and that I had to undergo a variety of tests and scans to find out the cause of my illness.
It was the week of my 24th Birthday and I remember it like it was yesterday. A 9am there was a knock on my hospital room door, Professor Hancock along with his medical team entered the room to deliver the devastating blow that I had a rare form of Cancer. It affects 1 in 60,000 females following the full term birth of my Son Jack. Because of the type of cancer, he explained that there were only three hospitals in the UK that treat the disease.
I felt that my world had been crushed and turned upside down in seconds.
I began a course of Chemotherapy straight away that unfortunately stopped working after two weeks. I was then told I had 2 treatment options left to fight the Cancer so I began a stronger intravenous Chemotherapy that I had to have over 3 days in hospital every week.
I can happily say this attacked the Cancer and after 4/5 months of being in and out of hospital I was finally allowed home to my family. I have been very fortunate to have battled this Cancer and to be here today after such a serious illness. 16 weekly check-ups will continue for the rest of my life.
Having Cancer has affected me in so many ways emotionally, physically and mentally. The most emotional challenging times was losing my hair and dealing with the physical effects that chemotherapy has.
Just before I finished my treatment two of my high school friends came to visit me at my mum’s house unaware of the journey I had been on for the past 5 months. They had come to ask if I would like to join their new netball team. I can honestly say netball was a huge part of my life growing up. I represented my town Wigan, my County Greater Manchester, Trafford Netball Club and also my High School. At this moment I started to smile because something that brought back so many happy times and memories from childhood had for a few minutes took my focus off my illness. Due to still having the chemotherapy I told my friends that I promised after I had finished and all was ok I would go along and join them.
The time came I was unsure if I had the confidence to actually go back to the court that I thought had long gone in my life. I took to the netball court for the first time one Thursday evening and I automatically felt like I’d never been away. The anxieties, panic, fear that I faced daily throughout my cancer Journey seemed to disappear whilst I was on court. Friendly faces replaced the problems I had suffered, unity as a team, self-achievement and complete joy all rolled into one.
Over the next few months I played netball when I was needed to help out when the team was short. One day I was asked by another new team that was starting up if I would like to go and play for them full time. They were called Vixens in the Wigan netball league, these girls are truly amazing and felt just like my netball family, I continue to play for vixens to date.
But this was just the start of my Back to Netball journey.
I found out about Back to Netball through Wigan Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles and Jennifer Leach the Greater Manchester development officer. I wanted my Cancer journey to help other people’s lives and begin a Back To Netball session for ladies from all walks of life.
So in July 2014 I started my very own back to Netball group called Lightning Ladies. We have grown from strength to strength, our group welcomes ladies of all abilities and from all social back grounds. Dealing with Cancer has allowed me to help others within our club. I have also now set up my own Junior 7 a side Netball club and also a High 5 Junior Netball club. I am fortunate to be able to use my life experiences to make a difference to others and I will continue to do so for as long as I can. I really feel that Netball has helped me keep focussed within live.
For anybody out there who has or is going through a similar or hard journey, I would say most importantly please believe in yourself. You can achieve and there is most definitely a Back to Netball group out there that will give you the support you need throughout your transition. I would like to personally wish you good luck and all the happiness in the world. I plan to help and encourage as many ladies who have suffered like me back into the sport that they love, whether it be to find a new session to begin to learn about netball or to come Back to Netball.
England netball has given me a new approach on life and has helped me in my darkest of days to get back to the person I was before my illness,