Sharon Laws always intended to retire following the end of the 2016 season. But today she announced that she's suffering from cancer which is 'treatable but not curable'.
The 42-year-old began her career aged 33, when she took a sabbatical from work to race for the GB National Team. She is the former national road and time trial champion and rode for Podium Ambition Pro Cycling this year - spending time with the young team and helping them develop their riders.
Sharon has posted a full statement on the Podium Ambition p/b Club La Santa website, explaining that a standard check up had revealed some swollen lymph nodes in her neck. She said: "I assumed these were just due to a series of colds I seemed to have had continually during the season. I was shocked to be told they contained secondary cancer tumours."
She went on to give further details, saying: "Following a scan more infected lymph nodes were found in the pelvis and a further two biopsies confirmed I have cervical cancer. The extensive spread means I require chemotherapy. At this stage it is treatable but not curable."
The treatment began on October 7, and will last for six months. She says: "Obviously I am trying to come to terms with what is happening. Up until starting the chemotherapy I could still ride my bike and, apart from recovering from the operations I had recently, felt normal."
Laws took a sabbatical in 2008 to allow her to race with the GB National team. In 2014 we followed with pride as she led the Queen of the Mountains competition at the Women's Tour. Speaking about her career, she commented: "I never imagined I would continue to race professionally for the following eight years. My last season with Podium Ambition has given me the opportunity to use my European experience to help the team in its first professional year."
Speaking of her time with the team, she added: "I have enjoyed working with the younger riders and the flexibility to race mountain bike marathon stage races culminating with the National Mountain Bike Marathon Champion title at the end of August."
Turning her attentions to the future, Laws said: "I am grateful to my family, my friends and teammates who have been incredibly supportive during this difficult time and especially to my Mum, whose life has also been turned upside down. I am also very thankful to Dr. Mark Ridgewell and the team’s sponsor, HMT, without them I probably would not have bothered even getting the lymph nodes checked.
"I had exciting retirement plans – learning Spanish and volunteer work in South America, bike guiding and environmental consultancy. These will now have to be put on hold. As a professional cyclist I’ve had my share of setbacks, in particular the horrific crash I had in 2013, which put me in hospital for 2 weeks with serious injuries. I have come back each time. I hope that these experiences and my life as a professional athlete have prepared me for what will be my biggest challenge so far."