She is a mum-of-two and cares for her poorly husband. But not only has Heather Buckel dropped three dress sizes and transformed her levels of fitness – she now plans to be a Born Hero for a charity close to her heart.
Heather’s husband Mick suffers from multiple system atrophy, a rare and terminal neurological condition.
And Heather hopes by taking part in next year’s Born Survivor event as a #Bornhero she can raise vital funds for St John’s Hospice, which has helped the family since Mick’s diagnosis.
The couple, live in Roedean Drive, Torrisholme, where Heather, who works in admin at Diamond Resorts, is Mick’s full-time carer.
The pair have a son Michael, 34, and daughter Selena, 32.
Mick, 63, was diagnosed with his condition two years ago.
It is a progressive neurological disorder caused by degeneration of nerve cells in several areas of the brain, which can result in problems with movement, balance and automatic body functions.
It affects around five people per 100,000, and is often misdiagnosed as the more common Parkinson’s.
Heather said: “He was a bus driver for Stagecoach, and he had a couple of small accidents, the last one in June 2012.
“Initially he was signed off with stress, but we had noticed a few things, such as his speech being slurred and his balance not as good.
“I mentioned this to the doctor and he was referred to a neurologist.
“It took six months to get a diagnosis, but even so it will never be 100 per cent accurately diagnosed until post mortem.”
Mick was given a life expectancy of seven to nine years from the point of diagnosis on December 13 2012.
Heather said: “It was hard to get the diagnosis but you learn to live with it.
“I have been through some counselling which has helped me enormously.
“I have got a much more positive outlook; I can’t change it so we have just got to enjoy the time we have got.”
Mick’s illness was one of the triggers for Heather’s dramatic weight loss.
She said: “There was no point me being the weight I was if I couldn’t do for Mick the things that I needed to do.
“If he fell over I couldn’t pick him up.
“It was a real wake-up call. I needed to sort my life out so I could help Mick.
“I had a gastric band fitted in May 2013.
“But even with that you won’t lose the weight if you don’t work at it. If you are eating the wrong foods it won’t work.
“I have dropped three dress sizes and lost three stone since the end of January.
“I then had a look at the Fitness Formation gym and I liked what I saw so I thought I would give it a go.
“I am hoping to lose another couple of stone.
“I am never going to be really skinny, but I certainly want to keep my fitness up.”
As part of her fitness regime, Heather undertook the Born Survivor event last year and then climbed Mount Snowdon, and also did Total Warrior last summer.
She said: “Next year I am planning a 10-day 100km trek to the Sahara in February, followed by Born Survivor in April.”
Heather puts her newfound enthusiasm down to her new friends at Lancaster gym Fitness Formation.
Until joining, she had made multiple attempts to lose weight but had stuck with none.
She said: “My weight has been up and down for years; this is the longest I have stuck at anything.
“There’s a real family feel about Fitness Formation, that I have not experienced anywhere before.
“I go four times a week – it’s my little sanctuary.”
Heather admits that Born Survivor was a gruelling event, but it didn’t put her off taking part again next year.
She said: “It’s a tough course, took me more than four-and-a-half hours to do it but I was chuffed with that.
“It was such a feeling when I finished it. The real sense of achievement you get when it’s done is amazing.
“It’s the taking part that’s important. I was last but I didn’t care; you get covered in mud but it’s really good fun, and it’s raising money for the hospice at the same time.
“At the end of the day it’s all about the hospice and what everyone can get out of it.
“At some point in everyone’s life they will be touched by St John’s.
“It’s a marvellous place. The people that work there earn everyone’s respect.
“It’s such a worthy cause and everybody should get on board in some way.
“It’s a cliche but every little helps.
“Mick has used the day care at the hospice, and they are great - they arrange for someone to pick him up and he can spend the day there and then they bring him home.
He also uses the Oak Centre day therapy.
“Without the hospice, the closest support network for him is the Parkinson’s group.
“Before Mick’s diagnosis, my perception was that it was there for people that were dying, and I think that’s what a lot of people think.”