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WATCH: 'I'm just grateful to be here' – Inverness woman beats cancer and is now set for catwalk

By Annabelle Gauntlett

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Sharon Fitzpatrick going back to work after receiving her cancer treatment.
Sharon Fitzpatrick going back to work after receiving her cancer treatment.

A woman from Inverness who has beaten cancer is set to take part in Catwalk for a Cause, run by the Highland Hospice and The Head Gardener.

Sharon Fitzpatrick (50) was diagnosed with bowel cancer in May 2021, during the pandemic, and endured many tests and procedures prior to her diagnosis, taking almost four years before it was recognised.

She said: "I was quite poorly from 2017, but didn't really know the signs or symptoms of what anything was. I had been put on some new medication, so I thought it might have been a reaction to that.

"However, in 2019 I started feeling really, really unwell. I was losing weight, and felt something wasn't right, but I never thought it would be cancer!

Sharon with her kids Louise and Christian.
Sharon with her kids Louise and Christian.

"I had an appointment with my GP who ran some tests and did a bowel screening, which I wouldn't usually be offered because I was only 47, but due to my symptoms of blood in my poo and heart palpitations, I was offered the scan.

"Unfortunately, I then had to wait 10 months for a colonoscopy, in which time my symptoms only got worse, to the point I was going to the bathroom 30 times a day, endured lots of bleeding and felt too tired to even have a shower.

"How I managed to work, I will never know.

"Once I went for the colonoscopy, they could see within the space of five minutes that I had cancer."

The Inverness community midwife was diagnosed with bowel cancer during Covid, isolating her from her friends and family during her gruelling hospital trips.

She said: "As I was diagnosed during Covid, I wasn't allowed to have anyone with me, so when they told me I didn't really feel anything.

"You'd think when you're given news like that you'd be losing the plot, screaming and shouting, but I did the total opposite.

"I couldn't change anything."

After hearing the news, Sharon immediately called her husband Scott (54).

She said: "Only my husband knew at the time, I just didn't want anyone to know about it.

"It took me about a month to pluck up the courage to tell the children.

"Out of the whole thing, the hardest part was having to tell my kids. It was awful"

She continued: "I had to tell my mum and sister via a voice note on WhatsApp, because I couldn't bear to see them howling and crying as I hadn't been emotional about it.

"I was very matter of fact about it, and it was just the way I had to be."

Sharon Fitzpatrick receiving chemotherapy during the pandemic.
Sharon Fitzpatrick receiving chemotherapy during the pandemic.

While 'none of it was pleasant', Sharon has 'come out of it at the other end' after enduring radiation therapy, chemotherapy and a major operation that were all successful and she has since been in remission for two years.

When talking about her cancer journey and what is on the horizon, she said: "I'm still on the cancer pathway for another three years, so I still have my CT scans and check-ups.

"It's not over and it's always in the back of my mind, but I suppose I'm a glass half full type of person.

"There's no point in me worrying too much about it as there's nothing I can do.

"I am a different person because of it, but I'm just grateful to be here."

In light of reaching the end of the tunnel, Sharon is keen to take part in this year's Catwalk for a Cause which is a platform for brave individuals from across the Highlands to tell their story about how their life has been affected by cancer or another life-limiting illness.

It’s both emotional and uplifting as it gives people the opportunity to glam up and feel good on the catwalk. A celebration of life, as well as a tribute to those no longer with us.

Sharon Fitzpatrick celebrating her 50th birthday.
Sharon Fitzpatrick celebrating her 50th birthday.

Sharon said: "I saw a spread in the paper last year about Catwalk for a Cause and because it was all surrounding bowel cancer, I thought I would take part.

"Off I went to meet Emma Nicol from the Highland Hospice and filmed a video about my story. It wasn't until I came home that I realised I just was not ready to do it, it was too early and raw.

"Having to say out loud what had happened to me was a huge no-no from me, so I called it off. But, this year I feel ready!

"It is really out of my comfort zone because I am such a private person, so for me to decide to do it is massive.

"At the end of the day, it's not about me, it's about raising as much awareness for the charity!"

Catwalk for a Cause is set to return to the Drumossie Hotel in Inverness on Saturday, February 10. Tickets cost £60 per person or £720 for a table of 12.

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