This Girl Can: Heather’s Story

My son Cayden passed away on 17th February 2011 at just ten weeks old. He was born with HLHS — Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. At four days old he had open heart surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital. All went well and after four weeks we were able to bring him home. We took him back to GOSH for a routine appointment to see if he was ready for his second operation, but my little fighter couldn’t fight any longer and despite the best efforts of the hospital staff, Cayden suffered a massive heart attack and passed away.

I didn’t leave the house for months after as I couldn’t face the world. Then somebody set up a Just Giving page in Cayden’s name and people started donating. I soon had a call from Luisa at GOSH about a new fund called the Brighter Future Fund asking if I’d like to be the first one to have it. So we set up the first Brighter Future Fund in Cayden’s name to allow us to keep his memory alive. We ran a music night which brought in almost £3000 and went from there.

In June 2013 I turned 30 and I was overweight, unhealthy and inactive. I saw a poster for a new running group in the village where I live in Irchester and decided to go. I almost turned back but my friend’s husband said he wanted to come so we went together.

It was so much harder than I thought. I couldn’t run for twenty seconds at a time, my ankles hurt and I couldn’t breathe. I decided that I wouldn’t give up so I went back week after week.

Eventually I entered a 5k race. Crossing that finishing line and receiving my medal was an amazing feeling. People continued to donate to Cayden’s Brighter Future Fund and the total crept up and up. By this point I was entering 5k races but I hadn’t lost any weight. I was undoubtedly stronger and fitter and healthier but I was still a size 18.

I shrugged it off and it was only when I was running around my village that I started to get heckled by passing cars and people walking on the streets. Some men would even wind their windows down just to shout abuse at me. It really upset me and I thought about stopping. Instead I went home and booked myself onto a 10k in London. It was a struggle but I did it so then I did another one. The heckling continued so I brought myself an iPod and turned the music up loud.

Last May a friend convinced me to join a high intensity fitness class. I thought I’d give it a go seeing as I was fitter, but it was so tough I almost vomited. I’m not one for giving up so I stuck by it and up to this point I can now do the same reps as everyone else and it takes me 20 minutes less to complete the fitness class. I also completed my first Half Marathon in Cardiff last October, which was an amazing experience I’ll never forget.

We’ve raised just over £28,000 in the almost five years we have been fundraising for GOSH in Cayden’s memory. We want to reach £30,000 by the end of the year. We have so far brought several syringe pumps for GOSH with this money as at one point Cayden had nine on him in one go, feeding different medicines into his tiny body to keep him alive.

So this year I have set myself a mammoth task of running seven races throughout 2016, including the London Marathon in April. I still have a way to go but I will not be defeated.
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