Race for Life: Tribute to spouse in cancer battle

A NEWLYWED has paid tribute to her husband for giving her the strength to fight a rare form of cervical cancer – as she led of an army of more than 1250 pink ladies at Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life.

Heather Williams gave an emotional speech to the participants in the Race For Life at Hopetoun House. Picture: Toby Williams

Heather Williams, 28, from Edinburgh, was chosen as VIP for the event at Hopetoun House yesterday and made a heartfelt speech to the crowd where she paid tribute to her new husband Gordon Duff, whom she says gave her the fight she needed to battle the disease.

She married police sergeant Gordon on the shores of Loch Lomond last month on April 11 – almost exactly a year after the devastating cancer diagnosis.

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And tenacious sports development worker Heather – along with her miniature pet dog, Parsnip – sounded the airhorn to start the Race for Life 5K and 10K events in the grounds of Hopetoun House, South Queensferry, before joining her team of 15 from Edinburgh Leisure as well as fellow cancer survivors and people taking part in celebration of their loved ones on the course.

Heather said: “It’s an honour to be VIP but hugely emotional too.

“Last April I experienced the worst day of my life and this spring I had the happiest day of my life. My wedding day was everything I’d hoped for and more. Now to be chosen to start the Race for Life is another wonderful positive.

“When I was told I had a tumour, I felt like my life as I’d known it was gone. My husband Gordon has stuck by me through it all. He even went without sleep after working night shift last night to come and cheer me on today.”

Heather, who ran her first marathon at Loch Ness only months before being diagnosed, visited her GP in January last year after experiencing pain in her pelvis. Despite four visits to the GP Heather’s symptoms persisted so she was referred to the gynaecology department at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where she was diagnosed with cancer aged just 27.

Heather’s six-week treatment plan included 23 sessions of radiotherapy and five sessions of chemotherapy. It was a huge relief when tests last August showed she was in remission.

Now Heather has set herself a new challenge – a list of 30 things to do before she turns 30. They include everything from skydiving to bagging a Munro, getting a tattoo to eating breakfast in New York. And Heather, who has just jetted home from a honeymoon in Thailand, is determined to do as many as possible with her new husband by her side.

Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, raises millions of pounds every year to help beat 200 different types of cancer. Last year, almost 46,000 women took part in Race for Life in Scotland and raised £2.9 million.

Race for Life event manager for Hopetoun House, Cara Inglis, said: “The support people across Edinburgh, South and North Queensferry have shown is absolutely tremendous and we are thrilled so many women took part in Race for Life.

“We want to say a heartfelt thanks to everyone who took part or supported our participants, as well as the wonderful volunteers who helped to make it happen. Our aim is that one day everyone will beat cancer. The more research we can fund, the sooner that day will come. Now the big day is over, we are asking our supporters to take one last step-by returning the money they have raised so that we can go on funding much-needed research.”