Cheryl Fergison’s torment: ‘I tried to burn away my cancer’

The former EastEnders star opens up to Closer about her terrifying bout of self-harm and why she hid her diagnosis from her son

cheryl fergison

by Charlotte Roberts |
Published on

Since leaving her role as the loveable Heather Trott on EastEnders back in 2012, it seemed Cheryl Fergison was enjoying life out of the spotlight as a mother and wife – but in recent weeks, the star has revealed that she’s actually been battling a terrifying cancer diagnosis.

Just three years after leaving the show in 2015, the actress was diagnosed with stage two womb cancer after experiencing backaches and spotting blood.

Cheryl, 58, then underwent a fullhysterectomy, triggering early menopause.But despite getting rid of the tumour, the star exclusively tells Closer that she struggled mentally with the idea of having cancerous cells, which led her to a terrifying bout of self-harm.


“I hate the word self-harm, but I was harming myself,” she says. “I was getting hot shower-heads three or four times a week, the hottest I could, and aiming it up my vagina thinking I would wash away the cells. I was bleeding, I was sore, they could never put a speculum up me, and relations with my husband were hard. I stopped that harm at the end of last year. It’s taken all this time.”

In 2011, Cheryl tied the knot with Moroccan-born Yassine Al-Jemoni, 21 years her junior. However, the soap star’s cancer diagnosis only years later would see the couple’s dreams of welcoming a child stripped away.

“We always said if we were going to have a baby, that was our chance,” shares Cheryl, “and that choice was taken away from us. Psychologically, that was hard. I’m 58 now. I’ve been blessed and humbled to have my son Alex, but my baby-making days are over.”

Revealing that husband Yassine, 38, was dealing with a family bereavement in Morocco at the time of her diagnosis, Cheryl says she initially sheltered Alex, now 24, from the news. “My son was taking his exams at the time. I’m very close to Alex, but I didn’t think I could tell him. I hid my diagnosis – I’ve never hidden anything from him before. Cancer doesn’t just affect the person, it affects friends and family,” she says.

Cheryl shares Alex with with her ex-husband, Jamshed Saddiqi. Often posting sweet snaps together online, as well as working together when given the chance, Cheryl gushes, “We’re like the Roman and Martin Kemp of the mother and gay son world!” When he did find out about his mother’s diagnosis, Cheryl shares that Alex “became the parent”, explaining, “He was helping me with things he shouldn’t have been doing – washing me and doing the cooking and cleaning. Of course, he’s been through his own situations too. He came out as a young, gay man at 14, and his dad disowned him. Me and Alex, we’re so close.”

Now healthy and cancer-free, Cheryl has discovered a newfound love for life – revealing she’s set her sights on a TV return.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by David Fisher/Shutterstock (1485144ag) Cheryl Fergison 'Michael Jackson: The Life of an Icon' film premiere, London, Britain - 2 Nov 2011

“I’d like to do documentaries. No subject is ever too taboo, and the only way we can normalise something is by talking about it. I’d also love to do Strictly Come Dancing or go in the Jungle – even Race Around The World or The Traitors! I feel like the world is my oyster and I can do what I want. If they take a punt on me, I’m going to make it entertaining,” she says.

But while an EastEnders return isn’t on the cards – “Heather Trott is long gone”, laughs Cheryl – the iconic soap holds a special place in her heart.

“As Barbara Windsor would say, EastEnders is family. Steve McFadden [who plays Phil Mitchell] is like my brother in real life. I stay with his family when I go to London, and I’m godmother to one of his children. I don’t speak to Linda Henry [who played Shirley Carter] as much anymore, but the friendship was really there. People watching old reruns always say Heather and Shirley were amazing. It was a duo you could rely on for a laugh,” she says.

closer magazine cover

And co-stars weren’t the only bonds formed. In one episode, Shirley attempts to cheer up George Michael super-fan Heather by sneaking her into the late musician’s home – a storyline Cheryl now reveals was inspired by true events. She laughs, “I didn’t break into his house, but I did go with Linda and Cliff Parisi, who played Minty. We knocked on his door, but then they both ran off and left me! Out came this lady who said, ‘Oh my God, Heather Trott?’

“We went to work that afternoon and the help desk said they’d had another prank call – someone who reckoned he was George Michael, and he was sorry to have missed me. After that, George would send flowers and signed things, and I’d go to his concerts and to his house. I was lucky enough to have known George, and he loved the fact that Heather called her son George Michael Trott after him. We laughed about that a lot. He was a very generous man.”

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