— Bethan Littlewood
I have always been a fitness fanatic even from a very young age, I would go along to all the sports clubs. Lifeguards, taekwondo, climbing, golf, canoeing, rugby, trampolining, swimming I loved them all!
By the age of 12, I stopped most of the sport clubs to concentrate on Canoe Polo where I flew to success. In my first year I gained a spot on the Welsh Team and by the age of 14 I made it into the Great British under 21 team. In 2011 I won a bronze medal in the European Championships. Things were looking very promising for my sporting future.
2012 full steam ahead for my own World Championships and the build up to the London Olympic Games - where through my volunteering I worked up to a Platinum Ambassador, where I got daily opportunities to promote sport to others, giving presentations to up to 300 pupils at a time delivering sports, presentations, opening, closing & local medal ceremonies inspiring a generation in sport as well as Inspiring and coaching others to become Ambassadors for Sports Wales.
Final preparations for the champs and the most unexpected news came: I had stage 3C ovarian cancer. Blues & Twos up to the specialist Teenage Cancer Trust ward in Health Hospital.
The New Normal: Week 1: Chemotherapy (5 days of 9 hours locked to a drip) Week 2: Blood tests and various scans. Week 3: Home, build up enough energy to sit and drift in a canoe. - All I would be thinking about was getting through to my rest week to have a drift in my boat it really kept me focused through my lowest days
I was extremely fit before the treatment and operations all of my nurses and doctors were very impressed with me. My surgeon said to Mum “The clamps we use to help operate were slipping Beth’s abs are so strong” At first we thought he was joking but I did find a blister on her my skin where the clamps had been. One of the chemotherapy days I looked at Mum from my hospital bed and said “I feel like I’m running a marathon, I really feel like my body is going through a hard work out, I’m not even moving!?”
Most of my treatment is very much a blur, some of my most memorable moments are:
*Disclaimer* I am so sorry to all of the Doctors & Nurses that had to put up with me through my treatment God bless you all I was not very understanding or patient but I am extremely grateful every day for all they done.
The Ultra-Sound scan that reviled a tumour the size of a football in my stomach - trainee doctor doing one of his first ultra-sounds expecting to see a baby as I looked 9 months pregnant - had the screen facing away from, had a dead straight face and was silent - those that know me will know I love a good conversation “C’mon Doc’ what can you see have I still got two kidneys?” I tried everything I could to crack a smile out of him - nothing. Turned to Mum when we left the room “goodness me he was miserable wasn’t he?” - Little did we know what the poor guy was going through, just hope I didn’t scar him for life!
The moment I was told I had a cancerous tumour my response “Ok, so how long will it take to cut it out I have training tomorrow night at 8pm?” - “No Beth, I don’t think you understand this is not a quick fix we’re going to transfer you over to Teenage Cancer Trust in Cardiff where they will treat you there”
Blues & Twos over to TCT in Health hospital and one of the superb nurses gave me a tour of the ward while they were preparing a bed and treatment. “So on Tuesday’s we have a reflexology..” “Wait let me stop you there, on Tuesday’s plural? I am going to have to be here for more than one Tuesday? I don’t think you understand I have really important training tomorrow I have my World Championships in 2 months I need to win a Gold Medal”
Implanted Port - I didn’t get a choice on what line I had but oh boy am I grateful they had to use this. This is the device they used to deliver my chemotherapy. This option meant that I could still have proper showers, go canoeing and swimming - which was huge for me! It was always a bit of a thud when they put the needle in my chest to access the device but totally worth it to have the freedom between chemotherapy weeks.
Morphine does some wacky and wonderful things, before any treatment, medications the nurses had to check my details and also get permission, Nurse “Is that ok Beth?”, “Yes”, Nurse “Beth, is that ok?”, “Yes”, My Brother rubs my arm “Beth you need to tell the nurse yes” “Oh sorry I thought I did yes” - the whole time I was responding it was all in my head and nothing actually come out of my mouth!!, Then a little later I was thinking I’m so thirsty and my brother handed me a drink straight away I turned to him and said “Thank you, how did you know?”, “Beth, you just said you were thirsty” Giggling at me, I giggled back I said I am thinking things and actually saying them and trying to say things and just thinking them!!
The dreaded drain! The tumour had blocked everything going through my body as it was so big so everything I was drinking was just sitting on top of it to the point where it was squishing my lungs and making it hard to breath, luckily (I think), I was in so much pain from the tumour that when they had to put an emergency drain in my stomach to get all the liquid out I was on gas and air they pierced a needle through into my stomach I didn’t feel a thing because of the huge amount of excess fluid in my abdomen from days or maybe weeks of build up they had to leave the drain in and could only drain 200ml every hour to prevent my body from going into shock, I’m not sure how long this went on for but it felt like days so when it finally came down to pulling the drains needle out my body had started almost healing around it - save you the gory details I couldn’t breath the gas and air in fast enough, it basically felt like an apple on the end of a string and felt like a big “pop” when the coiled end of the needle broke back out of my stomach! Safe to say it was no where near as pleasant as the needle going in!
Canulars - generally I was very lucky I had an amazing set of nurses in TCT that were fab at their jobs and made the process as comfortable as possible. There was two occasions where it wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked, as you can imagine I didn’t hold back. For one of the scans they had to inject radioactive dye in my blood so I wen’t over to a different ward for this, where the doctor had to put a canular in my hand, so by now you can imagine I am pretty used to needles and so I am watching the doctor try and get my vein, first attempt straight into my hand not in the vein, I looked at him shocked and said “That’s not even in a vein”, “sorry about that”, second attempt in my vein, clearly my months of being a patient is equivalent to the 6+ years of training to be a Doctor ;-) I think that it has to be pushed so far up the vein to work, whatever the reason it wasn’t right and he did want a third attempt, so before he tried again I said “Look my Nurses over TCT do this every day for me and don’t make it look so hard, this is your last chance if you don’t get it right this time I’m going back to my ward and getting them to do it” - safe to say the Doctor was fantastic under pressure of this ignorant 15 year old and a successful third attempt he had! The other not so smooth occasion so happened to be a day where I was wearing my favourite white joggers… I won’t elaborate any further but my superstar of a Mum is very trained in restoring my white clothing so all was well. All in all though two out of the hundreds of needles I’ve had to have, pre, post and during treatment that’s a pretty great record!
Operations - so it’s probably granted now I am not your typical patient. Before any operation the surgeon has to explain the surgery and you sign before they can complete it. It was time for my big operation the tumour had now shrunk from a football to the size of a tennis ball. The surgeons explained the incision they wanted to use for the operation - one of them a C section cut and the other a separate cut to access my liver, I said I am not happy with that as it will take longer to recover is it possible to do the operation without cutting through my abs and we decided on a straight incision between my abs that both surgeons could get to what they needed from too.
Operation time I wake up from my operation and go to sit up to grab a drink, I couldn’t sit up so I panicked called a nurse “Everything ok?”, “I can’t sit up to get my drink”, “I can pass it to you”, “No I can’t sit up”, “If you hold that button it’ll sit you up”, “No I want to sit up myself”, “Beth you’ve just had major surgery on your abdomen, your not supposed to be able to sit up right away”, well who would have known that! In the first major operation they took; 1.5 ovaries, Peritoneum curtain, 1/3 Liver, laser gunned part of the bowel and lungs. The second operation around a year later there was a blip where they thought it had come back and gone to my bowel as well as the ovary. So in preparation for the second operation they were trying to teach me how to use a colostomy bag and I refused to learn they said it is a possibility that you will wake up with a bag after this operation and we won’t be able to let you go home until you can empty it on your own, that’s ok I said I’m not having one and if I do I will have to learn then but until I have to I don’t want to think about it. So the second I woke up from the operation I was madly tapping my stomach wishing there wasn’t a bag and as everything was still completely numb I couldn’t feel if there was or not so I asked the nurse in the recovery room if I had one and she said I can’t see one in your notes, I was so relieved as my sport is a contact sport I couldn’t see me being allowed to play if I had a bag, also it meant I was right when I was being stubborn with the doctor which was very satisfying. Operation 2 just a quarter of my remaining ovary taken, phew!
Around 100 Tuesday’s later. I am back, competing for my club team - Bridgend Sharks & Great Britain.
2014 - Promotion from Division 3 to 2 open league
2014 World Championships, the wait was over I was able to compete in my first major championships in the u21 category since 2011, with only 4 months of training prior to the champs I wasn’t really ready but I was still taken to play and as one of the teams key players, on for the whole of every game, towards the end of the week my lack of fitness was really showing through just falling short of a medal losing the 3/4th place in golden goal against New Zealand.
2015 - British National Ladies Champions
2015 European Championships, I was invited up into the Senior Women’s team at the age of 18. A big step up from u21s, a lot of the previous seniors team retiring from the sport meant the team was rebuilding which I had been personally rebuilding my own fitness after the disappointment of it letting me down the previous year I didn’t want to be in that position again. A hard fought championship but just not enough finishing the championships in a disappointing 5th place.
2016 - British National Ladies Champions
2016 World Championships, we go again, another step up from the previous year on to the Worlds stage, my personal fitness is really building now, in British Squad training I am in the top spot for the fitness tests. Pressure was on and mistakes were made, plenty of lessons learnt final placing 6th in the World.
2017 Promotion from Division 2 to 1 open league
2017 European Championships, we go again, European year you would think means a slightly easier championships than a worlds year but in fact the European side of the sport is very strong with the top 3 historically coming from Germany, GB & France. Facing Switzerland in the 3rd/4th having beaten them in the group stages 7-4, a medal was in sight. The teams overall stamina and tactics lacked meaning a devastating loss to a team previously beaten meant another year without a medal.
2018 World Championships, we go again, we regained two of our experienced players back which meant we had an extra level of strength and depth in our team meaning we could now execute the riskiest but most rewarding tactics of the sport.
The games commence first game vs Australia, 17-0 win, second game vs Denmark 7-0 win, tight game vs France 6-5 win, Second round, Chinese Taipei 10-3 win, Switzerland a satisfying 7-2 win, Nederlands 7-3 win, Denmark 14-0 win, Germany 3-0 Loss, Semi Final vs Italy 3-1 win, Final vs Germany 3-1 Loss. Patience pays off! Silver Medal
2019 - Invited to play in the french division 1 ladies league - second place
2019 European Championships - After a really strong season in 2018 it went from strength to strength winning many international weekend tournaments in the run up to the championships, the pressure was on this was the year everyone was expecting a gold from us. The games commence good start vs Denmark 8-2 win, tough game vs France 3-3 draw, Sweden 6-1 win, second round 5-1 win vs Italy, 2-1 loss vs Germany, 3-1 loss vs France, going into the final day after two losses, reality was hitting in this was the year we had to win gold we can’t afford to let it slip now, Semi Final vs France close game stakes are high, entering into golden goal with a player down, pressure is on, and we pull through! Into the final we go against Germany very equal game could easily go either way no goals in the first half into the second half and our hero Ginny scores a backwards goal which is definitely worth a watch here, they pull back a goal which means again into over time, golden goal. Strong start winning a spectacular sprint as always from our fastest team mate Prudence, straight into the first attack which ended in a foul against me to allow me to take a penalty, calm and collected this was the moment I have been waiting for, for 8 years. Watch it here. GOAL!
GOLD Medal- this is what dreams are made of the wait and hard work is all worth it!
Personal training, swim teaching 1-2-1 & group, fitness classes, fitness inductions, Health MOTs (Fitness levels, Blood Glucose, Cholesterol, BMI)
Program’s assisted: Help the Heroes, Cystic Fibrosis, School SWOP, MOD testing.
Personal training, fitness classes & inductions.
Specialist Classes: 'Mudder Maker' , ‘Fast Classes’, ‘‘Fitness 5’, ‘twentyfour’ , ‘ZUU’ & ‘Ankorr’
Deliver, promote & develop sport across schools and communities in Bridgend. Mentor up and coming leaders and coaches.
Gained leaders awards in; Badminton, Athletics, Tag Rugby, Basketball, Tennis and Football.
Level 3 Personal Trainer, Level 4 Strength & Conditioning, Nutrition for Health & Performance, Les Mills Advanced Instructor and Level 2 ASA Swim Teaching
Pre/Postnatal Exercise, Advanced Program Design, Movement Screening, Recovery +, Swimfit, Les Mills GRIT, Les Mills BodyBalance, Health MOT, Fitness 5, Ankorr, ZUU, Kettlebells, TRX Suspension Training.
First Aid, Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults & Children, Fire Safety.
Gold Ambassador, Platinum Ambassador, Young Ambassador Steering Group, Community Chest Grants Panel.
Currently: Chair, Polo Performance Officer, Polo Representative & Coach. Previously: Junior Liaison Officer, Junior Development Officer, Coaching Officer, Vice Chair.