Brave Clitheroe fitness instructor fighting a brain tumour and fundraising phenomenally to find a cure by walking 10k steps daily

Heather Dryden and Jack Sells had been planning their dream wedding on a cruise ship for ages, but due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, they had to cancel their big day in May last year.

By Faiza Afzaal
Friday, 26th March 2021, 12:30 pm

A few weeks later, fit and healthy Heather's life changed drastically when she suffered a seizure, followed by another attack two months later. The 43-year-old was taken to Royal Blackburn Hospital and after later undergoing an MRI scan at Royal Preston Hospital, she was told the devastating news of having a brain tumour.

Recalling the moment medics told her about the shock discovery, she said: “My neurologist told me there were in fact two tumours and immediately arranged surgery for me later that week. I had a craniotomy to remove the larger tumour along with a lot of fluid, Grade 1 meningioma. The smaller tumour remains and we won’t know more until after my next MRI scan in April. My entire brain had moved and it was really quite amazing to see the scan images, it explained a lot of my symptoms, my bad balance, dizziness, headaches and, of course, then the seizures. Thankfully, I've had no seizures since surgery and I can hopefully come off the medication by the end of the year."

The diagnosis was the start of a remarkable journey for Heather, who has two sons - Elliott Dryden (26) and four-year-old Hunter Sells, and only four months after having major brain surgery, she regained her strength and decided to lace her trainers and put her best foot forward by walking 10,000 steps daily last month in aid of Brain Tumour Research. Heather has so far raised an impressive £5,000 and intends to continue raising awareness of the vital cause.

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Heather, Jack and Hunter Sells

She said: "I am a self-employed fitness instructor so the impact of the pandemic and then my diagnosis has just left me not being able to work or earn an income. I still have my fitness page SELFIT, but I'm physically unable to run any sort of classes. Luckily, I have the most amazing family, friends and SELFIT team who said they would take up the 10,000 steps a day challenge with me throughout February.

She added: "It was so hard, tiredness and fatigue is a major thing for me right now, I still get dizzy and headaches, the most I could ever manage walking was two hours before needing to rest or sleep. But we did it. My final goal was to make it to the top of the Clitheroe Castle Keep and we did it, on the very last day with the bluest sky and my family by my side. It was incredible and I could not have done it without everyone’s support. Twenty of us completed 10,000 steps or more every single day and we all kept track on my SELFIT page, they won’t ever realise how grateful I am for their support throughout. My SELFIT page is free to all until I’m able to go back to work, hopefully by the end of the year.

"We have raised such a phenomenal amount so far considering my original target was just £300 and we are now well over £5,000! Raising awareness for Brain Tumour Research and the amazing work the charity is doing to find a cure is really cathartic so every penny and pound is vital.

"We have officially raised enough to fund nearly two whole days of research. In return, I can go for a tour of one of the research centres and place a plaque on the wall of hope."

Heather celebrating with her four-year-old son, Hunter, having made it to the top of the Castle Keep

After having originally rehashed their wedding plans and put back the date to August 2022, on January 2nd, the bride-to-be decided to take the plunge and tie the knot at Clitheroe Registry Office. The couple’s special day was a far cry from the wedding they had originally planned. Making the best out of a bad situation, Heather and Jack said “I do” dressed in their jeans with four witnesses present.

"There was no big dress, suits, music or flowers confetti or celebrations, only official words were allowed due to Covid-19 restrictions. So, we can’t wait to still have our big day and celebrate with all our friends and family in August 2022," explained Heather.

Heather, who is a former pupil of Ribblesdale High School, Clitheroe, went onto express gratitude to everyone who has supported her and her family throughout this horrendous time in their lives.

She said: "I would like to wholeheartedly thank my neurosurgeon, theatre staff and ward staff at Royal Preston Hospital - they are my heroes. To everyone who donated, sent messages of support and walked those 280,000+ steps with us, we’re truly humbled and forever grateful. I am also thankful to my husband, Jack, who has been my absolute rock. He has needed to take time off work to look after me and our son so I cannot thank his workplace, Ultraframe, enough for their continued support throughout the past eight months."

Heather and Jack are looking forward to their big wedding celebration in August 2022

A little brightness in all the pandemic doom and gloom was the birth of the couple’s first granddaughter who arrived in September last year and has been a ray of sunshine for the whole family.

You can donate towards Heather’s cause by CLICKING HERE and adding donations under the name of Heather Beau Rae Sells.