Former British water skiing champ takes on new challenge at Lancaster cancer charity

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It is safe to say that many of CancerCare’s therapists have led interesting lives before joining the charity, and their newest team member is no different.

This month the charity welcomed new counsellor Heidi Birr, whose achievements include the enviable entry of being a former British Water Ski Champion, an accolade gained during a globe-trotting career as a professional water skier.

Originally from Arnside, Heidi’s love for the sport began as a teenager at Pine Lake near Carnforth, which in 1987 was a regional water-skiing hotbed, and led to her joining the British team, breaking records, winning numerous medals and eventually a stint as head coach of the Malaysian National Team, in Kuala Lumpur.

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Heidi fell in love with Asia and made Bali in Indonesia her home, where she started a family.

Heidi Birr.Heidi Birr.
Heidi Birr.

She returned to the UK around 10 years ago, at which time her father was sadly diagnosed with secondary bone cancer.

During a difficult time, she sought support from CancerCare and received counselling at the Slynedales Centre in Lancaster.

Therapy had such a positive impact on her well-being that Heidi decided to retrain as a counsellor and build on the voluntary experience she gained supporting people affected by the terrorist bombings which killed 202 people in Bali in 2002.

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Heidi’s efforts were subsequently recognised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Heidi Birr in her water skiing days.Heidi Birr in her water skiing days.
Heidi Birr in her water skiing days.

“CancerCare was a huge help to me," she said. "I had just returned to the UK with my young daughters after 16 years in Bali and it was a huge cultural change for us, everything felt very strange and I remember feeling very alone with my father’s diagnosis.

"The help and support I got at the time made a massive difference to me."

Such was the impact on her, Heidi set her sights on joining CancerCare, and after years of hard work volunteering for Cruse Bereavement Support and studying at Kendal College, Runshaw College near Preston, and the University of Cumbria, she gained her Level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling and is now a registered member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).

And two weeks ago, Heidi saw her first four clients at CancerCare's Kendal Centre.

To find out more about counselling at CancerCare visit or call 03330 150 628.

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