BBC EastEnders’ Cheryl Fergison shares how her life ‘fell apart’ after terrifying cancer diagnosis

Cheryl Fergison - who played Heather Trott on the BBC's EastEnders for five years - has shared her terrifying cancer journey and explained how the disease turned her life upside down

EastEnders actress Cheryl Fergison says her world fell apart when she was diagnosed with cancer and robbed of family plans as she required a hysterectomy.

The iconic soap actress – who played Heather Trott on the BBC show from 2007 until 2012 – had her life turned upside down by the devastating diagnosis in 2015. Opening up about her ordeal, the 58-year-old star says she was left fearing the worst when doctors delivered the shock news that she had the disease.

Cheryl says she feared leaving her 16-year-old son, Alex, without a mother and her younger husband, 46-year-old Yassine Al-Jermoni, without a wife. The star – who shares her son with ex-husband Jamshed Saddiqi – says she forced herself to find the strength to battle cancer and win.

Opening up to the Mirror, Cheryl recalled the way her life changed when she received her devastating news. She says: “Yes, there were some dark moments when I thought: ‘am I going to die?’ Am I going to leave my husband without a wife, my son without a mum? But I am strong and I’d knock those thoughts away. I was determined that it wasn’t going to beat me.”

Cheryl Fergison as Heather Trott on EastEnders - alongside Linda Henry as Shirley Carter

Recalling the symptoms that led her to get tests, she says: “I’d gone for a regular smear test – which had been clear – but I’d started having a lot of backache and then I began spotting blood, which wasn’t normal for me. I had been fitted with a coil to help with very heavy periods but somehow I just knew something didn’t feel right”.

And recalling the moment she was told the news, she says: “I was in absolute shock; stunned to the core. I couldn’t believe the doctor was talking about me.”

Cheryl took a pragmatic approach, however – even though her life was changed drastically. She recalls: “All I could think was ‘I have to get this thing out of me’ but it was very difficult. It impacted how I felt as a woman. I’d not long married Yassine and suddenly any thought of having a child together had been taken away. We may not have gone down that route, of course, but we’d lost the ability to choose. It brought on early menopause too; in terms of how I saw myself as a woman, it felt as if it had all come to an end. It was a horrendous time.”

Cheryl also explained that she was struggling financially at the time – and was gobsmacked when late co-star Barbara Windsor came to her aid. Cheryl was invited round to Barbara’s house after confiding in her about her health concerns – and was shocked when the iconic actress, who passed away in 2020 at the age of 83, offered her help.

Cheryl recalls: “I can hear her now saying ‘come on darling, how are you feeling? You know you can get through this’. I popped to the loo and when I came back Barb said, ‘right, darling, how much? How much are your bills and your mortgage because we’d like to support you’.

“I was in shock and said no but Barbs was insistent – I wasn’t earning. They sat there and wrote a cheque. I was sobbing but Barbara hugged me and said: ‘don’t worry. We’re always going to be here for you.’” She also says Steve McFadden, who has played Phil Mitchel on the soap since 1990, also helped her by lending her his Cornish home so she could recuperate after her hysterectomy.

Last year, Cheryl was finally given the all clear from doctors as her treatment proved successful. In a word of advice to others, the TV star says: “Listen to your body. Even if it’s the smallest concern – go and get checked because if you haven’t got health, you’ve not got no wealth. I’ve come through it and so can others. It’s all about living life now and I’m ready to fly.”

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