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I train and coach for RSD, a gym, dance and cheerleading company based in Treforest Industrial Estate. I train twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays and then coach on Sundays.
My greatest achievement this far is winning gold at the World Championships last year. I was selected for Team Wales Cheerleading in September 2021 and was on a team called adaptive abilities, which is made up of disabled and non-disabled athletes. We trained once a week for four hours from September until April, when we went to the championship in Florida and won.
The entire process was filmed, and a documentary was released on BBC called Blood, Sweat and Cheer. I love that I’m able to go back and rewatch our process. It gives me the same feelings to what I experience in the moment and I’m able to take that with me for the rest of my life. Winning gold was my biggest highlight, you can’t get better than winning gold.
A lot of commitment goes into my dance and cheer career. I compete with my local team RSD, whilst also competing for Team Wales. My normal weekly routine would be to train on a Monday for three-and-a-half hours, then on Tuesdays and Thursdays for two hours. Once a month I would train for seven hours, where I would spend three hours on dance then drive straight to the gym to train for four hours in the afternoon, starting at half past ten and finishing half past six. Both training sessions were different but intense at the same time.
Jasmine Hughes, Operational Support Services and Property intern at #TeamSWP
I was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s in 2020 when I was 38.
I’ve always been a bit shaky, especially when under stress but I was always told by doctors that it was anxiety. But then in 2019, my younger brother was diagnosed with it at 32, and my husband at the time said ‘I think you’ve got it too’. And it just sort of clicked.
I was under a lot of stress at the time – my dad was ill with terminal cancer – and again I was told it was anxiety. But then I managed to get referred to a consultant. My friend came with me, I had scans and things, that was in the February.
In the meantime my husband left and I was on my own with our two young children and still waiting to find out for sure.
Then we went into lockdown, so I was in the house on my own when I got the diagnosis over a Skype call in the April.
But weirdly it made me feel a million times better because I had an answer.
I’m now on medication and I feel like a different person. I think I had resigned myself to the fact it was probably Parkinson’s by the time I got the diagnosis and I think I would have been disappointed in a way if it hadn’t have been, because I still wouldn’t know what it was. Had my brother not been diagnosed I wouldn’t have even had an inkling, so in a way it was a blessing.
I got medication pretty much straight away and it made such a difference. Before, I’d try to hide my symptoms, I’d be shaking and I would avoid speaking to people and things because I was embarrassed and at times people had even asked if I was on drugs.
My degree is in music, and I perform in a brass band. Stress is the worst thing for Parkinson’s and at times before my diagnosis I would be physically trembling when I performed. I just always thought it was anxiety but as I got more and more stressed with everything that was going on I was in a hell of a state.
Parkinson’s is a condition that gets progressively worse. But right now, a lot of people say they wouldn’t even know I had it. Before I was diagnosed and on medication you’d probably have noticed it more. I would have looked like I was a bit frantic and on the edge, and really shaking. I don’t really know what the medication does, maybe just masks those symptoms, but it has definitely given me my confidence back. I’m still playing in the band and I feel so much more confident doing that now.
I didn’t know much about Parkinson’s before my brother was diagnosed. No-one else in my family had had it and even programmes about it tend to make out it’s just a condition that affects old people and mainly men.
So I did a lot of research, went on a course with Parkinson’s UK, and joined a local support group for young people with Parkinson’s on Facebook. I’ve got a lot of friends and a lot of support through that. A group of us meet up locally – it started off with four of us woman and now we’re up to six of us and my brother. We’re able to laugh at some aspects, find the light relief in our situations, you know like skipping queues at the theme park and things. We do have Parkinson’s in common so I don’t feel alone with it. But most of the time we don’t even talk about the condition, it’s just what brought us together.
I’ve also just started an exercise class called PD Warriors because exercise is probably the best thing for Parkinson’s, to help delay the symptoms and I also do an English National Ballet class.
To be honest, Parkinson’s has been the least of my worries over the last couple of years – as well as the diagnosis and my divorce and trying to be the best mum for my boys, my dad also died in December 2020.
I just knew I had to get on with it, carry on. You have to do what you can to help yourself and I refuse to just sit there and let it stop me living my life.
- Heather Giles, Alarms Administrator at #TeamSWP
I got into it by accident, actually. When I was in university I was doing my field work at a place called Butser Ancient Farm in Hampshire, and a bunch of re-enactors turned up. I got chatting to them and learned what they were about and they asked if I wanted to stay a night with them. I did, and I’ve been hooked ever since because it’s just a whole different world, a really nice bit of escapism.
We stayed in this old Saxon longhouse with the fire roaring, and just dead silence outside, it was just really peaceful. They were doing Saxon living history so you had people spinning, you had people cooking, doing pottery, leatherworking, blacksmiths. This little community had come together and we just joined in.
That was back in 2016/17 and now I’m part of two different groups who do two different periods. We’ll meet up for socials on the weekends, go on trips to historical locations, visit museums all that kind of thing. You know all that lovely, nerdy stuff. But then we’ll have events, like one a month or two-three times a month if it’s the really busy peak season, and we’ll just go round the country. If you go to a castle, that will be your home for the weekend, you sit and talk to the public, put on a little battle for them, which is just quite good fun.
I’m part of the There’s the Ragged Victorians, which portray the 1850s working class. So we’ll go to places like SS Great Britain, and other Victorian sites - there’s been a few around Wales like Blaenavon Ironworks – and depict the grubby, lower classes of the actual workers of Victorian Britain. They’ve got me down as the Muffin Man, so I’ll be walking round with a bunch of crumpets and bits and bobs.
When you’re engaging with the public, you’ve almost got you two faces on. Some people will come up to you and ask a question about the history and they’ll want to learn about it. When you’ve got a little kid and they’re looking at you and they really believe you’re a grotty old Victorian, you play up to the part and you give them that hands-on history. If kids are interested in history, it’s all well and good telling them the facts, but being able to show them, bring it to life, show them how heavy something is, feel the clothes and how itchy the wool is – that gives a whole different dynamic to history that you just don’t get out of a text book.
The other group I’m a part of is a Saxon group. They’re the first group I went with and they do early Anglo-Saxon Britain. So, we’ll do battles, evenings with the Saxons so people can come along, stay in the house, listen to some readings of old English and that kind of thing. And then you’ve got the living history side of that, so you’ve got smiths, sewers, weavers. You could be wearing a piece of kit and you’ll be like ‘my top was made by her over there, my sword was made by that guy there’.
The societies are really good at helping you research and source costumes, and they do become yours, but you’ve also got these lovely, clever, crafty hands onsite and you can’t buy this stuff off the shelf. So you’ve got someone there hand-stitching a tunic for you, or stitch-counting the seams on the ruffs of your top in the Victorian gear. I’ve picked up some skills along the way; I enjoy doing a bit of leather working, so I can make bits like shoes and I do a bit of bronze work so can make some recreations of bits that you find in certain graves.
My family think I’m still a little bit odd. I remember when I used to live at home and I come back with bumps and bruises, smelling like a campfire, and they’d think ‘why on Earth are you doing this hobby’. But it’s one of those hobbies you can’t explain to someone. The only way you’ll get in to it is just by giving it a go, and then you realise what that escape is.
You haven’t got your phone, the only people you’ve got are the ones around you chatting, having a good laugh. You meet people from loads of different walks of life they’re all bonded by this one need to have just a hand-on experience, with like-minded people and nothing else interrupting that.
My role as an international assistant referee has taken me all over the world. Back in May last year I was selected to go to the under-17s Euro 2022 tournament, I’ve done three full international friendly matches, and I’ve even been to the Faroe Islands on four separate occasions!
Earlier this season I got to experience group stage football by officiating two games in the Europa Conference League – Žalgiris of Lithuania hosting Basel, of Switzerland, and then French team Nice against the Czech side Slovácko. It’s the highest level we’ve had as Welsh for officials probably for about seven years now. It was a fantastic experience.
I’ve been working for South Wales Police for just over a year, taking emergency and non-emergency calls from the public and despatching officers to incidents. It can be bit of a juggling act because the fitness requirements needed for officiating at that level is high, so for example in my lunchbreak, or on my break on a nightshift, at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, I’m often in the gym – I don’t necessarily have other time to do it. I’ve got a young family and so it’s about balancing everything – that’s the biggest challenge of all.
I’m usually in an officiating team alongside Lewiss Edwards, who is a response officer in Merthyr. Because of the way our shift patterns fall, we work on the same team. We started refereeing together about 12 or 13 years ago – we both live in the same town, we grew up together and we’re best mates!
When it comes to travelling abroad, sometimes we don’t get much notice, but work have been phenomenal. I had been a bit worried before going to the under-17s European Championships, which was in Israel, because I needed three weeks off – but fortunately for me my supervisor and the room manager were fully behind it and allowed me to go despite being relatively new to the role at the time.
I enjoy the rewarding aspect of my job here, and it’s the same for refereeing. I try to let that outweigh the negatives, such as any abuse we might get. Generally you learn how to deal with those negatives, but there are occasions when it sideswipes you a bit and it does suddenly affect you, perhaps a few days later. But on the whole I always try to focus on the positives – I get to travel around the world representing my country, something not many people get the chance to do.
In terms of my work, every call is a different challenge. And then, when I’m on radios as a despatcher, every incident is a different challenge. You always come into something new and I absolutely love what I do. The refereeing side of my life has also helped give me a bit more of an insight as to how I can deal with tricky situations or where I need to react quickly to certain aspects of the job. My two ‘jobs’ in life go hand-in-hand, which does make the transition from one to the other quite smooth, and I am always developing.
A few years ago, Lewiss, me, and one other, we went out to Saudi Arabia and did about 15 games in their top league as full-time match officials. I was pinching myself a bit at experiencing that – I was living the dream. But as a part-time official, I still get to live it to an extent. And I love my job in the police, I really do – it gives me a new perspective on life.
I put off going to the doctors for a long, long time and was pushed by my wife to go. I actually went for another reason, for high blood pressure, and then used that as an excuse to disclose to my doctor I was having discomfort.
It’s shellshock, you know. I was praying and hoping that it was down to a trauma – I was hit by a tennis ball many, many months before – and I put it down to that. I was praying it was always going to be that.
But when I actually plucked up the courage, put my big boy trousers on and went to see the doctor, I had an inkling because it had been there for so long. The thing for me is I could kick myself, how long it took me to go and sort it out and put all my embarrassment and everything else to one side.
It was devastating to be told ‘yes, we think it’s cancer’. It took my breath away because you just focus on that one word and you don’t hear anything else after that. All the rest – the blur and the medical advice they’re giving you – is just background noise and you just think of the worst.
And I certainly thought of the worst, planned my own funeral, what songs I wanted, making sure the family were okay, telling my wife where the insurance papers were and that sort of thing. Things that they didn’t want to hear. Particularly very early on when we didn’t really know what the prognosis was. And, you know, testicular cancer has a very high success rate of survival beyond five years; 98%, as long as it’s caught early enough.
But I always had that nagging doubt I’d left it too long. Certainly, I had a secondary cancer, probably as a result of leaving it too long.
It's the not knowing that caused me the anxiety and the stress and the emotions all over the place. I deliberately avoided Doctor Google because you can look at things on there and I’m a bit of a pessimist – I’ve been Welsh rugby fan and a Liverpool fan for years so I can be a pessimist. So I tried to avoid that and leave it to the professionals and trust in their advice and guidance and stayed away from that as best as I could.
But once I knew exactly what I was facing it was easier to focus. The success rates, the statistics are very, very positive. But I was in a very small statistical cohort; 1, I was 46 at the time so that was a bit of an anomaly because it’s seen as a young man’s cancer and 2, I was in the less than 10% I think it is, who require further treatment and I required the chemotherapy. And in my annual review at Velindre, they picked up that I had a para-aortic nodule that was deemed to be cancerous, so I had to go for further chemo and radiotherapy. But in my head I knew I could deal with it.
When I was going back and forth to Velindre, I was in for 40 minutes for my chemotherapy, other people were in for six/seven hours and that blew me away. And they were going in for multiple doses of that, and you know, that was tough. I was sat there, you know, a big burly policeman looking around and thinking ‘I’m lucky and I’m praying for everyone in there’. So I was quite humbled going there.
I always touch wood when people ask now, but at the moment, I’m three years into the journey, but I suppose because of the secondary chemotherapy they class me as just being two years clear at this moment in time, and I’m in that five-year window where I’m still at a slightly heightened risk. So I think five years is that magical figure which I’m looking at positively and I’m still in that cycle of surveillance, having the reassurance that Velindre are looking out for me.
I think throughout this I feel lucky, I feel blessed. I’ve had the support of a loving family around me, it was weird during Covid but it was actually a wonderful time for us as a family on reflection because we were together and that got me through it.
My blood disorder, Neutropenia, is genetic and means a lack of white blood cells to fight infections, which is caused by the bone marrow.
One in a million people are born with it. It’s so rare that I don’t know anyone with it.
As with any chronic illness, in time you learn the best ways to manage it. It’s made me who I am and I always knew I wanted to work in a role that helps people, and also in my spare time I raise awareness of the importance of people joining the bone marrow register.
There is a chance that if I were to have a child that they would also have Neutropenia. I have thought about that, and I’ve spoken to my boyfriend about it, but he always says ‘if they did have it, they’d have the best teacher to deal with it’. And I think he’s right in a way. All the things I’ve learned along the way – you know, when I was younger, whenever I Googled it, the word cancer came up and, even though that’s not what I’ve got, that was really scary.
But treatments are only ever getting better, the NHS is only developing more. I used to have to mix my own injections together as a teenager from the medications I was prescribed, whereas now they come in a tiny little syringe, I just do it, dispose of it. So, if you think how much that’s developed in 15 years, treatments are only going to continue to improve.
- Jen Collins, Senior Communications Officer at #TeamSWP
Serving in the Army for 24 years has led me to becoming the person I am today. I felt as if I had plenty of transferrable skills to come into the police. At some stages during my career in the Army I served in Regimental Policing. My role was to look after prisoners, take them back and forth, make sure they were fed and looked after during their detention period. The prisoners were military persons who had detention for crimes they would have committed during the Army. So the transferable skills were easy to slip into my current role.
I served 24 years to Her Majesty the Queen. When she unfortunately passed away in September 2022, I was fortunate to go to London to carry out vigil duties around the coffin. That was an amazing honour and privilege to be a part of and a defining moment in my career.
Sometimes I feel as though I am busy all the time. As a Police Community Support Officer, I engage with the community and work with them, along with councillors to make my patch a better place. I’ve set up various Neighbourhood Watches and invest into them by raising money through running half marathons. This money will then be invested into the community so it can be improved.
Warren Williams, Police Community Support Officer at #TeamSWP
It’s been just over two years since I started the adoption process. I’ve had cancer twice previously, but I’m nearly 37 and I’d reached a point where I was happy in work, health was fine and I just thought ‘what do I want in life?’. I’m single, haven’t met the right person, but I knew I always wanted to be a mum. And I just thought ‘just because I haven’t got a partner, why should I miss out on being a mum?’.
That first year was quite intense, I was given homework every time the social worker would come round. And it would be things like my family background, the upbringing I had, the type of person I am, all about my job, my interests. Absolutely everything about me basically. And then I had my approval panel in the October of 2021. When I had a phone call to say ‘yes, they’re happy and they’ve approved you’, that was just an amazing feeling. To be honest I burst out crying. It had been such a long journey.
It’s been another long year since I’ve been approved. There have been a few potential matches but it’s been knock-back after knock-back so far. Sometimes it’s been because I’m single and the concern over how I will be coming back to work full time and able to look after a child of my own. It can be difficult to take sometimes; just because I haven’t met the right person, it doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be a good mum. I don’t have to be in a relationship to become someone’s parent.
I just keep trying to emphasise to these children’s social workers that I’ve got a robust support network around me, I’ve got such a close family, and they’ve all been incredible from the beginning. We celebrate absolutely everything, any excuse to go out for a meal or get together, then that’s the type of thing we do. And I just think, ‘I can’t wait to be able to do that with my own child’. I’ve been really lucky to have the upbringing I’ve had and I just want to be able to give those opportunities to another person.
I know I can give a child love, stability, routine, opportunities. Exactly what I’ve had.
I also can’t praise my friends or work enough; everyone’s been on board 100%. My job has been an obstacle at times as well though. For some it was an issue because they saw it as ‘you’re a police officer, you work 24/7, how are you going to be able to manage a child?’. But there have also been occasions where my job is part of what the child’s social worker like about me; the fact that I’ve got that understanding and compassion of the backgrounds some of these children may have, the struggles they might have faced.
It’s been a real rollercoaster. I’ve had my moments where I’ve been up and down. And I’m still not there yet.
But I would still say to anyone considering adoption, if you are in a position where you are able to go through the process, just do it. Be patient, don’t get ahead of yourself. Just take each step as it comes really. Try not to look too much into the future. Just deal with it step by step. And make sure that you reach out to your support networks throughout.
- Detective Constable Jenna Hargraves, Public Protection Department at #TeamSWP