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‘I’m not going anywhere. I’m still fighting’

  • Consumate professional: Heather Jacobs Matthews, respected former Auditor-General of Bermuda, enjoys the view at home this month. The 67-year-old insists the severity of her cancer was never explained to her by doctors in Bermuda and in the United States (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Heather Jacobs Matthews walked along the South Shore every morning for many years.

She walked so regularly and so early in the morning, that friends and relatives would sometimes shake their heads and laugh at her routine.

But it was time she carved out for herself, away from the high-pressured demands of her work as a public servant, which included stints as Tax Commissioner, Accountant-General, and, eventually, Auditor-General for seven years.

Nowadays, eight years after having thyroid cancer diagnosed, Mrs Jacobs Matthews finds walking difficult.

The disease has spread to her bones, although she says she is not in serious pain, and she has been told it is too late for chemotherapy.

Having considered the cancer diagnosis not to be a “major issue” when first told of it in 2011, the mother of two is now doing end-of-life planning to ensure a secure future for her family, including her son, daughter and two granddaughters, aged 18 months and 7.

“Will I see them go to university, because I’m planning for them to go,” she said.

Mrs Jacobs Matthews, a lifelong healthy eater and fitness fanatic, wants people to know why there has been such a dramatic change in her appearance.

“It is so discouraging when I see people on the street and they start crying,” she said. “I keep telling them, ‘I’m here’.

“I feel like I’m not going anywhere. I have got an illness right now, but I don’t feel it’s taking me anywhere. I am still fighting. I can’t give up hope now.”

She added: “It’s painful to see the emotions and shock on the faces of my many family and friends when they notice that I am very unsteady on my feet, particularly those who have seen me walk in the early morning almost daily on South Shore for over 20 years. But that is my new normal now.”