Every year one of the toughest mountain bike rides in the world, The Strathpuffer takes place in the hills around Strathpeffer.
Mountain bikers from around the world descend on the village in the middle of winter and spend 24 hours cycling around an extreme course while the Highlands throws some of the worst weather it can muster at them.
Even the fittest of athletes find it tough, which is why mum-of-two, Deirdre Graham’s effort was remarkable.
Five years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and taking part in the race was her way of raising funds for the charity, Breakthrough Breast Cancer, and letting others know being diagnosed with cancer isn’t the end of the world.
Deirdre, 45, from Strathpeffer said: “I was aware of the importance of checking your breasts and found a lump but it was very small and didn’t seem to fit into any of the criteria, so I didn’t do anything about it.
“It’s easy to lose track of time so it was about a year later, when I was 40, I became aware the lump had become painful so visited the doctor.
“Like me, the doctor didn’t think it would be cancerous but sent me to the breast clinic in Inverness for further tests.
“The diagnosis was that the lump had ‘suspicious tendencies’ so I was sent to Edinburgh for further diagnosis as at that point, Inverness couldn’t offer a treatment that could have saved my lymph nodes.”
The news she had cancer was broken to Deirdre via a telephone call, just as her young sons, then aged 10 and eight, were arriving home.
“That was difficult, trying to be strong as the family were around while my thoughts were about what would happen to them if I wasn’t around,” said Deirdre.
“The first couple of days were very scary, you go around in blur but I’m a Christian and faith got me through.
“When I came to terms with having cancer I was totally calm.”
Deirdre had a tough year, and by the time she was 41 she’d undergone chemotherapy, three lumpectomies , a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.
“Early detection is vital which is why it’s so important to support organisations such as Breakthrough Breast Cancer,” said Deirdre.
“Going into schools, educating young girls to become breast aware and research all cost money which is why I, along with some friends, took part in the Strathpuffer.
“We were sponsored by family and friends, wore big bras and raised more than £3,000 for the
charity,” said Deirdre, who works as a nurse in the
children’s ward at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.”
Breakthrough Breast Cancer is more than a name, it’s a force of thousands of people like Deirdre, all doing their bit to help women fighting breast cancer.
The charity aims to achieve this by finding new treatments, discovering the causes, promoting early detection and ensuring the best possible care for women diagnosed with the disease.
“I took part in a sponsored event but a simple way to help the charity is to leave a legacy to it in your will,” said Deirdre.
Gifts in wills would help Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s work in future, to stop breast cancer for good.