‘It was absolutely terrifying to hear that my weight was putting my life at risk’ Bride-to-be says losing four stone saved her life

A bride-to-be claims losing weight saved her life when she was diagnosed with cancer of the womb – as shedding four stone enabled doctors to safely perform a radical hysterectomy.

Clare Watkins, 38, who plans to marry her fiancé Russ Cullis, 48, in April 2021, says slimming down from 20st to 16st meant medics could also perform keyhole surgery, which made the operation less serious.

Employment mentor Clare, of Pontypool, South Wales, who also teaches GCSE English to adults three nights a week, said: “I have a very different outlook on life now.”

She continued: “I make healthier choices. I no longer rely on take-outs, but cook from scratch and stick to a weight loss plan.”

Clare, who has been seeing telecoms shop manager Russ, who has two teenage children from a previous marriage, for six years, has struggled with her weight since her teens.

Suffering with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which affects how the ovaries work and can cause weight gain, she struggled to slim down.

Skinny as a child, she believes her gynaecological problems added to her weight gain, although she admits her diet was crammed with junk food and sugary drinks.

Then two traumas – the death of her beloved dad, Jeff, in 2016, who died from a pulmonary embolism, followed by a hit-and-run car crash in 2017, where a driver rammed the back of her stationary vehicle at speed, before fleeing, leaving her with serious whiplash – caused her to comfort eat.



Clare and Russ (PA Real Life/Collect)

“It had been a rough time, but at Christmas 2017, Russ proposed after hiding the engagement ring on the Christmas tree,” she said.

She continued: “Apparently, the ring had been there for week, but I hadn’t noticed it.

“I said yes and we started planning for a wedding on April 3, 2021, which is the day of my parents’ wedding anniversary.”

Determined to lose some weight for her wedding, in October 2019 she was given an added incentive to slim when, after experiencing painful and irregular bleeding, doctors took a biopsy of the lining of her womb.

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Given a call back appointment, when she arrived at Royal Gwent Hospital, two Macmillan cancer nurses were in attendance and she was told she had endometrial cancer in her womb.

She recalled: “You know when you get a phone call from your specialist asking you to come back that it’s probably not going to be good news, but I wasn’t expecting to hear I had endometrial cancer.

“Because of lockdown I had to go to that appointment on my own. I remember it felt surreal, but I didn’t cry. It was as if I had been expecting it, even though cancer had not been mentioned until then.”



Clare in hospital (PA Real Life/Collect)

“This was also when I was told I would have to have a full surgical hysterectomy, which would then put me into an early menopause,” she said.

“I was also told the procedure would be far less risky if I lost weight.

“It was absolutely terrifying to hear that my weight was putting my life at risk.”

She said: “It was the final push I needed to start losing the weight.”

“I had come to terms with the idea I might not be able to have children when I was first told in my twenties that, because of the PCOS -which can affect fertility – my chances of conceiving were only 30 per cent.

“I was sad, because I always wanted to be a mum, but luckily, Russ already has children, so that’s a gift to me.”



Before and after (PA Real Life/Collect)

Determined to remain positive, the day after hearing the bombshell news, Clare and her sister went shopping for her wedding dress.

She said: “It was a very surreal day, but at the same time after such a horrible day it was nice to do something positive.

“It was very bittersweet. ”

Resolved to lose weight, she tried to diet by herself for a few months before, in February, joining her local WW slimming group.

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It was there that she finally faced that, a size 24 and weighing 20stone – which at 5ft 5in made her body mass index (BMI) used to gauge a healthy weight 46.6, compared to the NHS recommended range of 18.5 to 24.9 – she was clinically obese.

“I never used to weigh myself, but at my largest, I was probably about a size 24,” she said.

She continued: “I lost about half a stone by myself before joining WW, which made all the difference.

“I went on my first diet at 16 and have successfully lost weight before, but then put it back on again.

“I would use any excuse to comfort eat and then blame outside factors when the weight started piling on.”

She said: “But this time I had both my health and the wedding as my motivation for sticking to the plan, plus Erica, my WW coach, really helped. She was always there to support me, whenever I needed her.

“Since joining WW, I have lost four stone. My interim goal now is to get down to 15 stone and I’m not far off, but I need to be careful because my wedding dress is hanging in the closet and already needs to be taken in!”

Booked in for a hysterectomy in August at Neville Hall Hospital, in Abergavenny, by then 16st 1lb, Clare’s weight loss meant she was able to have less invasive keyhole surgery, making the operation easier.

“By then, I was more concerned about my health than about the fact I would not be able to have children,” she said.

“Luckily for me, the cancer had been caught in its very earliest stages. It had not spread and the surgeon was able to remove all of it.”

Throughout her cancer and weight loss journeys, her biggest supporter has been Russ, who she met through mutual friends.

“With Russ, I’ve always been able to be exactly who I am,” she said.

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“Even at my heaviest, he always made me feel so secure. He really is selfless and he has always been there to support me when things go wrong.”

Plunged into an early menopause by her operation, Clare is unable to have medical treatment for the symptoms as the cancer is hormone sensitive.

“I’m on absolutely no treatment because the cancer can be fuelled by HRT treatment,” she said.

“I’m keeping a log of all my symptoms – hot flushes, disrupted sleep and night sweats – but it’s not unbearable at the moment.

“We just need to keep an eye on it.”

Insisting her experience has taught her that life is for the living, her message to other women struggling to lose weight is: “At the start, it can feel like a mountain to climb, but don’t beat yourself up if you fail and have to start again.

“I think if you can embrace the idea of getting healthier and making better diet and lifestyle choices, you can begin to take better care of yourself.

“I’ve learned that I needed to be nicer to myself and stop beating myself up about my size.”

She continued: “In a supportive environment I have done very well and would like to reach a target weight of 14st by Christmas.

“I would also like to stress the importance of getting checked out straight away if you suspect something is wrong with your health.

“Seeing the doctor certainly paid off for me, as my cancer was caught early, while it was very treatable.”

She continued: “Now I can’t wait to marry Russ in April, after my wedding dress is taken in for the final time!”