EastEnders star Cheryl Fergison on why she waited years to reveal cancer diagnosis

Soap favourite recently shared her cancer diagnosis with the public

Nicole Vassell
Wednesday 08 May 2024 17:02 BST
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The former EastEnders actor Cheryl Fergison has spoken out about her womb cancer diagnosis and how Barbara Windsor’s kind gift helped her at a difficult time.

Fergison played fan favourite Heather Trott on the soap from 2007 to 2012, exiting the series when Heather met an untimely death at the hands of Ben Mitchell.

Last month, Fergison, 58, revealed that she had been diagnosed with womb cancer in 2015. She is now cancer-free.

On Wednesday (8 May), the soap star appeared on the ITV panel show Loose Women and explained that her decision to only now speak about her experience was partly about dealing with the news herself, as well as wanting to appear open to job opportunities.

“I kept it quiet for a long time because I had to process a lot of it,” she said. “Also, in our profession, it’s difficult because if you’re not working, then you’re not earning any money.

“You have to keep working. So, for us, you know, it was putting on a smile once I’d had the operation [and] keep getting well. There was a lot of stuff that was psychologically happening to me at that point, when I discovered that I got it.”

Fergison, who has also appeared in Netflix’s Hard Cell, noted that she felt inspired to “crack on” with her life at the end of 2023.

Cheryl Fergison on Loose Women
Cheryl Fergison on Loose Women (ITV / screengrab)

“It’s only up until sort of the end of last year that I managed to kind of go ‘enough is enough, now stop this, I need to just crack on’,” she said.

The actor later said that she wanted to speak out to inspire women to listen to their bodies more, as her diagnosis could have been missed had she not pursued medical advice on multiple occasions.

“I think the thing is, if I hadn’t acted on what was going on with me, I don’t feel like I would have been here today.”

Describing the symptoms that led to her diagnosis, Fergison said that she’d been concerned after experiencing a backache and spotting blood, but her smear test came back clear.

“This just didn’t feel right,” she said. “In my head, I’m thinking you’ve got to go and sort this out. And literally within those three months between having the smear, and going back to the doctor again, getting seen again, having a small biopsy, they told me that I had stage two cancer, in three months.

“We don’t normally have a smear for another three years so, what I’m saying is, listen to your body, go to the doctor and do it. It doesn’t matter that you’re pestering them, it doesn’t matter because you know yourself and it saves lives.”

Opening up on the support she’s received, Fergison noted that some of her EastEnders castmates had been particularly helpful, including Steve McFadden (Phil Mitchell) and Linda Henry (Shirley Carter).

She noted that the late Barbara Windsor, who played the Queen Vic’s iconic landlady Peggy Mitchell, was particularly generous when she visited her house.

Barbara Windsor
Barbara Windsor (PA Media)

“I went to the toilet and I'd explained everything was going on and I was going to have my operation very soon,” Fergison said.

“I came back and [Barbara Windsor’s husband] Scott was there with a chequebook and she went, ‘Right, how much are your bills then?’ and she literally wrote a cheque out to help me pay my bills and my mortgage.

“I just remember, just weeping, and you have people like this and people don't know the generosity of people and what they do, it's amazing. I'm forever grateful.”

Loose Women airs weekdays from 12.30pm on ITV1 & ITVX.

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