Becky James says cancer scare gave her 'massive perspective'

Becky James tells BBC Sport Wales TV how a health scare has given her a new-found perspective on life and sport.
Sport Wales TV
When: 20:00 BST, Friday, 21 August, 2015 Channel: BBC 2 Wales

Welsh cyclist Becky James says she has a new perspective on life and sport after a cancer scare.

The 23-year-old had an operation to remove abnormal cells following a cervical screening in May 2014.

The double world champion's health concerns contributed to her missing the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

"At the time I thought, 'It doesn't matter about being injured, the main thing is I have to get my health right,'" she said.

"That is definitely the way I think now," James added in a frank interview for the BBC's Sport Wales programme, to be broadcast on Friday.

James won gold in the keirin and sprint at the 2013 Track World Championships, but has been out for 18 months with shoulder and knee injuries.

She made her comeback at the Revolution Series in Derby at the weekend, and has been named in the GB team for the Dudenhofen GP in Germany.

James said her priorities have changed but retains her ambition to succeed as a international athlete.

Becky James (left) won a silver medal in the sprint at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 behind Australian Anna Mears (centre)
Becky James (left) won a silver medal in the sprint at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 behind Australian Anna Mears (centre)

"Being out for over a year has given me a massive perspective on being happy and enjoying what I do," she said.

How did she find out about the abnormal result?

James did not have cancer, but a smear test revealed abnormal cells that could have developed into the disease if left untreated.

"I went in for my routine smear and two weeks later had the result which said 'abnormal smear' and then I went down and they explained it to me," she said.

James said a nurse explained her result on a scale which had five categories - clear, mild, moderate, severe and cancer.

"I asked, 'Where am I?' and she said, 'You're here, on severe' and I thought, 'Oh my gosh.' I really didn't know what to expect," added James.

"She explained everything - how they burn cells away and that if you leave it then it can develop into cancer.

Cervical screening tests
The National Health Service provides free cervical screening tests every three years for women aged between 25 and 49.Women aged between 50 and 64 are screened every five years. Women 65 or over will be screened if they have not been screened since the age of 50 or have recently had abnormal tests. Source: NHS Directexternal-link

"I was reading about it on the internet - possibly the worst thing you could do - I was just constantly worrying about it.

"It was a really stressful time, I found it really emotional but I had my family there," added James, whose partner George North - the Northampton Saints and Wales rugby union wing - returned to training in June after a series of head injuries.

What about the future?

James is concentrating her efforts on qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

After making her comeback in Derby this month, James will next compete as part of the GB team in Germany on the 28 and 29 August.

She then intends to compete in three World Cup events over the winter to gain qualifying points.

Britain's Olympic track team will be selected in mid-June 2016, with performances during the period running from 1 October 2015 to 1 June 2016 taken into consideration.

"There was times when I didn't know if I was going to get back and I used to get so upset about everything," added James.

"But once I came through that I realised I love what I do and that's why I'm coming back and why I want to get to the Olympics because I love my job and I love cycling."

You can watch Sport Wales from 20:00 BST every Friday on BBC Two Wales and on the iPlayer.

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