AN EDINBURGH woman who was diagnosed with cervical cancer aged 27 and has undergone three operations for brain tumours is fronting a new fundraising campaign for Cancer Research UK.

The charity, which funds half of all cancer research in the UK, is launching a new urgent appeal as it faces a 30 per cent fall in income in the 2020/21 financial year as a direct result of the Covid pandemic, which closed charity shops and cancelled events.

Heather Duff, 33, from Winchburgh, near Edinburgh, is stars in the 30 second film which debuted today [July 1] and will air across the UK.

Ms Duff is seen during lockdown counting out daily chemotherapy medication, chatting online to loved ones on Zoom, as well as recuperating on the sofa with her miniature dachshund pet dogs, Pumpkin and Parsnip.

The film also features a direct plea for support from leading scientist Professor Richard Gilbertson, along with clips of other cancer patients and survivors in lockdown - many of whom are self-isolating or shielding to protect their health.

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Ms Duff survived cervical cancer after being diagnosed in 2014, but was then told she had an unrelated brain tumour two years ago.

She said: “I struggle to find the words to express how much I hate cancer.

“Cervical cancer at 27 was pretty harsh. Losing my fertility, being catapulted in to the menopause and managing the on going side effects has been a challenge too.

"A brain tumour four years later and discovering not one but two tumours was a simple reminder that life sometimes is just not fair.

"It’s not just a case of putting a brave face on it though. I doubt anyone will walk this earth with no form of heartache."

Ms Duff, a talented hockey player who had run the London marathon and started a new job as a fundraising manager for Cancer Research UK, thought she had put the disease behind her after successful treatment for cervical cancer.

But in the early hours of May 16 2018 she woke to find three paramedics in her bedroom and her husband Gordon, 39, by her side.

The couple were taken to hospital where a CT scan revealed Ms Duff had suffered a seizure triggered by a lesion on her brain.

On September 3 2018, she underwent a nine hour operation at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh to remove the brain tumour. More tests revealed a second tumour so Ms Duff had surgery again in December 2018.

But in 2019 the tumour showed signs of growing again and on December 9 she endured brain surgery for a third time.

Ms Duff said: “The news I got just before Christmas last year that it looked like my tumour was stage three knocked the wind out of my sails and left me emotionally exhausted.

"Thankfully, having allowed time to let the news settle and with the amazing support of my nearest and dearest I am feeling ready to take on the next climb in this marathon called cancer.

“I’m focusing on the positives. I am strong, I have an incredible team medically and socially. I’m prepared to give it all I’ve got.”

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She added: “Research to help bring forward the day when all cancers are cured is what gives my family, friends and me the hope we need.

"That’s why it upsets me to think about research being held up by the COVID-19 outbreak and what this might mean for people affected by cancer in the months and years to come.

"By boosting funding now, we can all help to lessen the future impact on patients, so I’m proud to be part of this important campaign.”

Ms Duff is now on a year-long course of the chemotherapy drug temozolomide, which stops cancer cells from making DNA so they cannot grow, causing them to die.

Cancer Research UK funded scientists led the development of temozolomide, and in the 1990 researchers at Glasgow University developed a process to make bigger batches of the drug for use in clinical trials.

It is now used worldwide to treat the most common adult brain tumour, glioblastoma, and - in combination with radiotherapy - has become the international standard of care for thousands of people with brain tumours.

Every year in Scotland around 1,000 people are diagnosed with brain tumours and around 470 people diein Scotland die.

Lisa Adams, spokeswoman for Cancer Research UK, said: “We’re grateful to Heather for playing a starring role in our appeal and helping to underline the reality of the current situation.

“We’ve always said ‘together we will beat cancer’. But the truth is, COVID-19 has slowed us down. Right now, clinical trials are being postponed and we’re having to delay vital research.

“But we will never stop. Around 32,200 people are diagnosed with cancer every year in Scotland, which is why we are absolutely determined to continue to create better cancer treatments for tomorrow.”