Mother, 49, with stage 4 cancer who almost died from coronavirus after being admitted to hospital barely able to breathe reveals she’s back running her spin studio three WEEKS later – and insists ‘I’m too young to die’
- Spin studio owner Hilary Bentwood, 49, of London, has stage 4 cervical cancer
- Treatments included chemotherapy and an operation to remove her ovaries
- Three weeks ago, after suffering a cough, Hilary tested positive for Coronavirus
- Has now recovered from the virus and says even the most vulnerable can beat it
A fitness entrepreneur with stage 4 cervical cancer revealed how she almost died from coronavirus after developing symptoms she initially thought were caused by chemotherapy.
Hilary Bentwood, 49, who runs spin studio CyClub, in north London, was admitted to hospital last month with fatigue, a high temperature and extreme shortness of breath.
As a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy, Hilary understood she was at in a high-risk category for COVID-19 but said she was ‘too ill to worry’. It was only after she recovered that her oncologist revealed to her that she had been in a life-threatening condition.
However Hilary, a married mother of two, was determined to get back to work and within three weeks was back running the studio alongside her best friend and business partner Sharon Jaffe, 47.
Hilary Bentwood, 49, (pictured) from North-West London, who was diagnosed with stage 4 cervical cancer last year, revealed how she almost died from coronavirus last month
The spin studio owner and mother-of-two told how she has lost her hair as a result of chemotherapy. She now wears wigs when she is teaching spin classes
‘I am too young to die,’ Hilary said, explaining how she remains upbeat. ‘I still have so much I need to do, that’s what keeps me positive. Stage 4 cancer aside – we have too much to do.’
Hilary was diagnosed with stage 4 cervical cancer last year and underwent surgery to remove her ovaries and tumours in December.
She initially put her coronavirus symptoms down to exhaustion from a recent round of chemotherapy, but later decided her persistent cough and difficulty breathing combined with a very high fever must be caused by more than chemo.
She was taken to the hospital oncology unit where she was treated as if it could be neutropenic sepsis or coronavirus.
‘I was absolutely terrified,’ she said. ‘Being a chemo patient, if we get a temperature over 37.5C we are supposed to call into hospital or go to A&E as our immunity is compromised and we can become neutropenic [when someone has a low level of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell], which is life-threatening.’
She continued: ‘I was too ill to worry. Although I was reassured it wasn’t nutropeanea, I was put on an IV drip and oxygen and two days later my results from the oncology unit revealed I had tested positive for coronavirus.
‘My cough was terrible and uncontrollable – shallow breaths was all I could manage.
‘My consultant was in touch with me regularly and I am truly grateful that he chose not to tell me of the risk to my life. He did not consider it appropriate to have that conversation with me whilst I was so unwell. For me, calmness is key, panic just causes more pain.
After being released from hospital, Hilary was determined to get back to work and within three weeks was back running the studio alongside her best friend and business partner Sharon Jaffe, 47. Pictured, Hilary and Sharon together
‘It was only a few days ago that he confirmed to me the life-threatening situation I had been in, once we knew I was out the woods. He shared with me that the stats were not good for chemo corona patients and that my life had been at severe risk.’
Once she was released from hospital, Hilary spent time in self-isolation but kept in constant communication with Sharon so they could keep their business running.
Like many fitness business owners, the friends were forced to close CyClub as the coronavirus crisis worsened in the UK. However the partners quickly adapted to a remote model and launched ‘On Demand’ as an option for their 4,000 members.
Sharon said: ‘When Hilary got the cancer diagnosis, it felt like the bottom fell out of my world. I was already dealing with a mother and mother-in-law with cancer, but with Hilary it was just too much. She was my rock and I had to become her rock and when she got the coronavirus and everything happened so quickly I knew it was a lifeline for us both to keep our club up and running.
‘Running your own business is difficult at the best of times, never mind in this situation. Our spinning community is huge, we are like a family, so when the studio shut we discussed launching On Demand, worked through the logistics of renting out our bikes and how to deliver them – and boom ‘On Demand’ happened.
Hilary (pictured) revealed the belief that she’s ‘too young to die’ and still has much to do, keeps her positive
‘I created a mini studio in my children’s playroom, purchased some equipment on Amazon and carried on recording, even with Instagram Live and IGTV, which I had never used before.
‘There was so much encouragement as we had our own CyClub on Demand Whatsapp group with members enthusiastically embracing the classes. We have started off with members who are original CyClubbers but now we’re proud to say we have subscribers from Boston to Athens.’
Hilary continued: ‘Now I have my brain and body back, Cyclub on demand is key to my existence – Sharon and I working as one again – in a virtual capacity – is wonderful.
‘As for my own health, always what pulls me through is my need to get up and move. I have a need to make myself stronger and to train. It’s been that way for many many years now. It has saved me before all this cancer and coronavirus stuff, and it’s still my guiding light now. I have things to do, classes to teach and a body to put on display.
Like many fitness business owners, the friends were forced to close CyClub as the coronavirus crisis worsened in the UK. However the partners quickly adapted to a remote model and launched ‘On Demand’ as an option for their 4,000 members. Pictured, one of the classes
‘I am too young to die. I still have so much I need to do, that’s what keeps me positive. Stage 4 cancer aside – we have too much to do. I am not leaving my family – Sharon included – friends or The CyClub.
‘I am still coughing and have a bad cold but my immunity is a little knocked and am not allowed any vitamin pills throughout my chemo regime, so limited help with recovery.’
Hilary, who admitted her cancer diagnosis last year was a ‘bombshell’, is still on an intensive chemotherapy regime that has caused her to lose her hair.
She has been having treatment at LOC London oncology centre, during the government’s enforced lockdown.
She continued: ‘Seeing my blonde hair covering my black lycra as it fell out is more sickening than the nausea you get with chemo. The disgustingness of fallen hair on your coat as you remove it is truly devastating [sic]. And how could I have the masses look at me at CyClub without a head of hair?
‘I have so many looking at me as I teach. Looking good is part of the role, and bald is not the way to roll. I absolutely had to hold onto the looking good element.
‘One day quietly on my own (with my husband’s clippers) I did the deed of shaving my head and honestly I have no words to describe how that feels. It’s still tear-jerking, but I accept now that I will never have long locks again and I am at peace with it.
Hilary revealed helping others through CyClub motivates her, as it’s not only about burning calories but guiding some to think more clearly. Pictured: CyClub spinning class
‘I have fabulous real hair wigs but they will never feel like my own hair. And training and spinning now and sweating with a wig on is a little extra challenge – but it is what it is, and as long as the wig stays in place then I’m all good.’
Hilary told how her family, friends and spin community had been a pillar of support.
She added: ‘My diagnosis of cancer was a bombshell but the love and friendship with my members has kept me going. It makes me emotional just thinking about the continued support I have received from them over these past few months.
‘Plus the love and support I have had from Sharon – I couldn’t have done it without her and my wonderful family and friends.’
http://www.the-cyclub.com/ And on Instagram @the_cyclub
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