GB Paracyclist, mum of two and all-round wonder woman, Sally Hurst is part of Team Prevent for Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 46. Sally received her shock breast cancer diagnosis just 12 years after being treated for bone cancer and losing her leg to the disease, but has since gone on to compete around the world as a para-cyclist – just don’t call her inspirational!
Tell us a bit about your cancer diagnosis
I was first diagnosed with osteosarcoma – bone cancer – in 2005, when I was 26. It was found in my leg, so I ended up having an above-knee amputation and a year of intensive chemotherapy as a hospital inpatient. Then, in 2016, just before Christmas, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer at the age of 38. My treatment consisted of six cycles of chemotherapy, biological therapy, radiotherapy, a mastectomy and breast reconstruction.
How did you feel when you were told that you had breast cancer?
I found it very hard to accept. I know it’s illogical, but I felt like I’d already had my fair share of cancer with my previous diagnosis of osteosarcoma – I’d already lost a leg, and now I was losing a breast too. Realistically, I know there’s no such thing as a ‘fair share’ of cancer for anyone, but it’s how I felt at the time. It was also a shock because I have no family history of breast cancer. I had genetic testing for the BRCA gene and Li-Fraumeni Syndrome because of my previous cancer diagnosis, but it all came back negative.
What was the turning point that made you decide to get active again?
Watching the London 2012 Paralympics was a real eye-opener, as it made me realise that I could participate in sport again as an amputee. I went along to a Paralympic sports event where you could try out different spots, and got chatting to people from British Cycling. From there, I went to a testing day, where I was accepted on to the GB cycling talent squad for disabled athletes on the lead up to the Rio games. For the next three years, I trained with the development and academy squads, and competed in international events, including a road world cup in South Africa and track world championships in Italy.
How has cycling changed your life?
Rediscovering cycling not only made me so much fitter, it drastically improved my confidence – it helped me learn how to accept my new, disabled body. I’ve also met so many amazing people through cycling. Although being part of the GB cycling team was challenging – I was juggling work, kids and training – it was also one of the most exciting times of my life.
Why do you support Prevent Breast Cancer?
Quite simply, I want the disease to be prevented for future generations, and the incredible research that the charity undertakes – particularly the research into gene fragments – could hold the key. I don’t want my children to have to suffer the devastation of a cancer diagnosis, so I am passionate about doing everything I can to help create a breast cancer-free future. I can’t wait to be part of Team Prevent as part of the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 46, and would encourage anyone to take part, too.
How can I get involved?
If you’d like to join myself and Team Prevent at the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey event, here’s how you can get involved. You can show your support on social, too – Prevent are on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They have also teamed up with sportswear brand Fat Lad at the Back, to create a Prevent Breast Cancer cycling jersey, which I can’t wait to wear!