It is safe to say that many of CancerCare’s therapists have led interesting lives before joining the charity.
Whether it’s a career in the arts, caring professions or nuclear submarine engineering, all are equipped with the life skills, as well as the professional qualifications, which enable them to help our clients with whatever situation they come to us seeking support with.
This month we welcomed our new counsellor Heidi Birr whose achievements includes the enviable entry: former British Water Ski Champion, an accolade gained during a globe-trotting career as a professional water skier which saw her jumping, slaloming and somersaulting across lakes around the world.
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 a stint as head coach of the Malaysian National Team, in Kuala Lumpur.
Heidi fell in love with Asia and made Bali in Indonesia her home, where she started a family. Heidi returned to the UK around ten years ago, at which time her father was sadly diagnosed with secondary bone cancer. During an understandably difficult time, she sought support from CancerCare and received counselling at our Slynedales Centre in Lancaster.
Therapy had such a positive impact on her well-being that she 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. Heidi’s efforts were subsequently recognised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
“CancerCare was a huge help to me. 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,” said Heidi.
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).
Two weeks ago, Heidi saw her first four clients at our Kendal Centre and we are looking forward to seeing her use her skills to support many more people coping with the effects of a cancer diagnosis or bereavement across north Lancashire and south Cumbria.