August 29, 2019
Five years after being diagnosed with breast cancer, South Burnett councillor Ros Heit is proving that a devastating diagnosis doesn’t have to be a fatal one.
Next April, Ros will be joining her son Peter in the UK to run the 42.195km London Marathon and raise money for breast cancer research.
The London Marathon, which is run along the River Thames between Tower and Westminster bridges, is regarded as one of the top six foot races in the world.
It attracts more than 40,000 runners each year.
The duo were very lucky to secure a start. The marathon attracts so many entries the odds of being allowed to take part are 10-to-1.
Ros said her son had suggested the idea to her as a way to celebrate the fifth anniversary of her breast cancer diagnosis.
Peter is currently working in the UK and shares his mother’s love of running.
The Marathon is also a fundraiser for charities, and runners are able to choose what good cause they’ll fundraise for.
Ros said since they were only allowed to choose from charities which have a base in the UK, they chose Worldwide Cancer Research.
This charity funds cancer research projects all over the world, including four ground-breaking research projects currently being undertaken in Australia.
The London Marathon caps off a whirlwind five years for Ros, who first entered local government in a by-election when a former councillor resigned two-thirds of the way through the four-year term following a family tragedy.
In the by-election, Ros narrowly won her Division 6 seat by just three votes.
But within months of assuming office, a breast cancer diagnosis meant she had to juggle her new responsibilities with a seemingly endless round of medical appointments and treatments.
Many women in her position might have resigned at that point, and few would have blamed her.
But Ros stuck things out, doing such a good job that when she faced the ballot box again in 2016 she was returned with a thumping 62 per cent of the vote.
What made that victory even sweeter was that during the election campaign supporters of some other candidates urged voters not to choose her as she “probably won’t make the next few years”.
“I thought that was a terribly negative message to send to women, and if anything it made me even more determined to show them they were dead wrong,” Ros said.
“Breast cancer can be beaten, and I am determined to support cancer research until the day all cancers are eliminated.”
Ros was diagnosed in August 2015 and her treatments continued until May 2016.
During her treatment, she found that research suggested exercise reduces the risk of a recurrence.
So barely a week after her treatment finished — and having never run before — she started running.
She began with an introductory course, then joined a running group where she discovered the joy of running with other people.
She went on to start Wondai’s parkrun group which now attracts as many as 100 runners to its Saturday morning meetings. She also helped found the Wondai Country Running Festival that celebrated its third outing this year.
“In 2017 I finished my first half marathon and since then I’ve completed several more with a great group of running friends,” Ros said.
“Running became, and continues to be, a big part of my life.”
Most recently, Ros ran with the AgForce team at this year’s Bridge to Brisbane.
“My one regret about the London Marathon is that it’s being run on April 26, so I’ll have to miss our local Anzac Day services for the first time in so long I can’t remember,” Ros said.
“I wish they’d hold it on another day, but they won’t!”
Ros has set up a JustGiving page to help her and her son reach their goal of raising £4000 (about $10,000) for Worldwide Cancer Research.
So far, with almost zero publicity, the page has raised 14 per cent of its target.
Ros hopes to hit 100 per cent before she boards the flight to the UK next year.
“The South Burnett raises an amazing amount for cancer research,” Ros said.
“Relay For Life, Daffodil Day, the McGrath Foundation and many other fundraisers are all helping to make Australia a world leader in cancer research and treatment.
“So I’d like to do my bit, too.
“I’m only here today because of the support of my family and friends, and amazing doctors who’ve been able to access the latest treatments.
“I wouldn’t wish cancer on anybody but I think everyone deserves the same opportunities I’ve had, and even better in the future.”