A bride-to-be, claiming to lose weight, saved her life when she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. By dropping four stones, doctors were able to safely perform a radical hysterectomy.
Clare Watkins, 38, who plans to marry her fiancé Russ Cullis, 48, in April 2021, says losing weight from the 20th to the 16th meant medics could also do keyhole surgery, which made the surgery less serious.
Employment mentor Clare from Pontypool, South Wales, who also teaches GCSE English to adults three nights a week, said, “I have a completely different outlook on life now.”
She continued, “I make healthier choices. I no longer rely on takeouts, I cook from scratch and stick to a weight loss plan. “
Clare, who for six years has seen telecom business manager Russ, who has two teenage children from a previous marriage, has struggled with her weight since she was a teenager.
She had polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which affects how the ovaries work and can lead to weight gain, and had difficulty losing weight.
As a skinny kid, she believes her gynecological problems contributed to her weight gain, despite admitting that her diet was crammed with junk foods and sugary drinks.
Then two trauma – the death of her beloved father Jeff in 2016, who died of a pulmonary embolism, followed by a car accident in 2017 in which a driver previously rammed the back of her stationary vehicle at high speed, leaving her with severe whiplash – made her console the food.
“It had been a tough time, but at Christmas 2017 Russ proposed after hiding the engagement ring on the Christmas tree,” she said.
She continued, “Apparently the ring had been there for a week, but I hadn’t noticed.
“I said yes and we started planning a wedding on April 3, 2021, my parents’ wedding anniversary.”
Determined to shed some weight for her wedding, she received an added weight loss incentive in October 2019 when doctors performed a biopsy of the lining of the uterus after painful and irregular bleeding.
When she arrived at Royal Gwent Hospital, two Macmillan cancer nurses were present and she was told that she had endometrial cancer in the womb.
She recalled, “You know when you get a call from your specialist asking you to come back that probably won’t be good news, but I wasn’t expecting to hear that I had endometrial cancer.
“Because of the lockdown, I had to go to this appointment alone. I remember it felt surreal, but I didn’t cry. It was like I expected it, even though cancer hadn’t been mentioned until then. “
“This was also when I was told I needed to have a full surgical hysterectomy, which would then put me into early menopause,” she said.
“I was also told that the procedure would be far less risky if I lost weight.
“It was absolutely terrifying to hear that my weight was putting my life at risk.”
She said, “It was the last nudge I needed to lose weight.”
“I resigned myself to the idea that I might not be able to have children when I was first told in my twenties that my chances of conceiving were only 30 percent due to PCOS, which can affect fertility.
“I was sad because I always wanted to be a mother, but luckily Russ already has children, that’s a gift for me.”
Determined to stay positive the day after the news of the bombs, Clare and her sister went shopping to purchase her wedding dress.
She said, “It was a very surreal day, but at the same time it was nice to be able to do something positive after such a terrible day.
“It was very bittersweet. ”
Determined to lose weight, she tried self-feeding for a few months before joining her local WW slimming group in February.
There she was eventually faced with a height of 24 stones and a weight of 20 stones, which at 5 feet 5 inches made her Body Mass Index (BMI) measure a healthy weight of 46.6 compared to the NHS recommended range of 18 , 5 to 24.9 used obese.
“I never weighed myself, but I was probably around 24 on my biggest,” she said.
She continued, “I lost about half a stone on my own before I got to WW, which made all the difference.
“I went on my first diet when I was 16 and previously successfully lost weight, but then put it back on.
“I would use any excuse to console the food and then blame external factors if the weight built up.”
She said, “But this time I had both my health and the wedding as motivation to stick to the plan and Erica, my WW trainer, really helped me. She was always there to support me whenever I needed her.
“I’ve lost four stones since I came to WW. My preliminary goal now is to get to 15 stones and I’m not far away, but I have to be careful because my wedding dress is hanging in the closet and already needs to be recorded! “
Clare’s weight loss, booked for a hysterectomy at Neville Hall Hospital in Abergavenny in August, meant she could undergo less invasive keyhole surgery, which made the operation easier.
“Until then, I was more concerned about my health than about the fact that I would not have children,” she said.
“Fortunately, the cancer was caught in the earliest stages. It hadn’t spread and the surgeon was able to remove anything. “
During her cancer and weight loss journeys, Russ was her greatest supporter, whom she met through mutual friends.
“With Russ, I’ve always been able to be who I am,” she said.
“Even with my heaviest, he always made me feel so safe. He’s really selfless and was always there to support me when things went wrong. “
Clare, who has entered early menopause from her surgery, is unable to medically treat symptoms because the cancer is hormone sensitive.
“I am absolutely not under treatment because HRT treatment can fuel the cancer,” she said.
“I keep a log of all of my symptoms – hot flashes, trouble sleeping, and night sweats – but it’s not unbearable right now.
“We just have to keep an eye on it.”
Insisting on experience has taught them that life is for the living. Her message to other women who are struggling to lose weight is, “In the beginning it can feel like a mountain climbing, but if you fail and have to start over, don’t beat yourself up.
“I think when you can embrace the idea of getting healthier and making better diet and lifestyle choices, you can begin to take better care of yourself.
“I’ve learned that I have to be nicer to myself and stop beating myself up about my size.”
She continued, “I’ve done very well in a supportive environment and aim to reach a goal weight of 14 by Christmas.
“I would also like to emphasize the importance of being checked out immediately if you suspect something is wrong with your health.
“Seeing the doctor paid off for me because my cancer was detected early, even though it was very treatable.”
She continued, “Now I can’t wait to marry Russ in April after my wedding dress was last taken!”