STEPHANIE Heyes knows first-hand about fighting life-threatening disease.
The 17-year-old, from Marton, hopes when she runs the Race for Life in July she will raise money, raise awareness and provide inspiration for others.
The pretty teenager was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2009 but battled through, completing her studies at St George’s High School, and managing to achieve her target grades in her GCSEs.
She was only 14 when she was given the shocking news – but she is now in remission after chemotherapy and extensive treatment, and has check-ups every six months for doctors to monitor her progress.
Stephanie has taken part in the Cancer Research UK Race for Life twice before and is looking forward to running the 5k course again – which this year has switched venues, from Lawson’s Showground, to Blackpool Promenade.
She said: “I will be running for family members and others who have lost their lives to cancer, myself as a cancer survivor, and all the other fighters out there.
“When I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia, two days after I broke up for the 2009 Easter holidays, I had never imagined the Friday before I broke up from school would be my last there for six months.
“I had been feeling perfectly fine previous to the diagnosis, doing things I loved, such as swimming and PE at school. I started getting pains in my joints and becoming very lethargic.
“I could hardly walk or move my neck and a lump formed on my collar bone – something wasn’t right.”
After being checked out, Stephanie was asked to go into hospital, where she and her parents were told the devastating news doctors suspected leukaemia. A bone marrow test confirmed the worst.
Stephanie said: “This was the moment where I realised I had to stay strong, be a fighter for a very long time. From the diagnosis came shock, devastation and fright. However, there also came the strongest side of me I had ever seen in my life.
“This was the moment where I realised from that point on, the beginning of a life-changing journey was just starting.”
Stephanie, now studying at Blackpool Sixth Form College for her A-levels in English language and literature and media studies, said her experience had definitely changed her life and her outlook.
She said: “It was a horrific time, but also I have got a lot out of it. I don’t take anything for granted and appreciate everything more. I went to Florida on a trip with a charity, which was an amazing experience, and I met lots of great people.
“I’m looking forward to the Race for Life – there is always such a brilliant atmosphere and everyone is there for their own personal reasons.”
To sponsor Stephanie, log on to www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/stephanieheyes.