EXCLUSIVE: Strictly Come Dancing’s Amy Dowden, ‘I’m grateful to have another shot at life’

Strictly star Amy and her celebrity pals open up about their trek in aid of breast cancer charity, CoppaFeel!

Amy Dowden

by Shereen Low |
Updated on

The nation was left in shock when much-loved Strictly Come Dancing pro Amy Dowden revealed she had been diagnosed with cancer. The dancer was told she had stage-three breast cancer in April 2023 after returning from her honeymoon with husband Ben Jones.

She underwent treatment instantly, including a mastectomy and chemotherapy. But in July, she was told that the tumours had spread.

Thankfully, in February this year Amy, 33, was told that there was no evidence of the disease left in her body.

Now, she’s on a mission to spread the word and encourage other people to check their bodies for any signs of cancer. After a year away from Strictly, the star will be returning to the dance floor for the next series, but just before it kicks off, a documentary that followed her health journey is due to air.

amy dowden and kevin clifton
amy on the strictly dance floor ©Getty Images: Mike Marsland/WireImage

Amy also took part in the annual CoppaFeel! trek last month with her mates, who all wanted to rally around and support their friend as they hiked for five solid days across the Brecon Beacons – raising much-needed awareness and cash for the breast cancer charity.

Here Amy, along with pals Candice Brown, 39, Giovanna Fletcher, 39, Sara Davies, 40, and Harry Judd, 38, tell us more…

Congratulations on the trek, how was it?

Amy: It was such an amazing week, spreading awareness for breast cancer, which is what CoppaFeel! is all about. It was quite emotional because it’s down to CoppaFeel! and, of course, Strictly, for pairing me with [Giovanna’s husband] Tom Fletcher [in 2021]. That ultimately saved my life. Two years ago, I was trekking for my first time in Pembrokeshire with CoppaFeel!, which is what made me start checking myself, and obviously a few months later I found my lump.

coppa feel trek 2024
from left to right: Love Island’s Faye Winter also took part in the trek with Giovanna, Amy, Candice and Harry ©CoppaFeel!

Giovanna: It was brilliant! I love the UK treks because they take me to beautiful places I’ve never been. It was very tough – we did lots of climbing mountains, but it turns out that going down was harder. Lots of achy knees and my Achilles started swelling up. We had hailstones while we were walking on ridges!

Candice: This is my seventh week-long walk. This one was pretty brutal and I found it quite difficult, physically and emotionally. I was cold and had cramp most nights. It took its toll.

Harry: It was amazing but ruthless. It’s not just the trekking, it’s the camping and lack of showers. It was genuinely a challenge. I was absolutely exhausted when I got home – I slept for 14 hours.

What was the biggest challenge?

Giovanna: There was one day, around day three, where every time my boot touched my Achilles, it was pure agony. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to walk that day but, thankfully, a few painkillers helped.

Harry: For me, it was the camping. I’m not much of a camper so five nights in a tent was harder for me than the actual trekking. It was unbelievably cold in the tent. We were up at 6am and I’m terrible in the mornings, so being around 130 people on a campsite first thing while I looked horrendous, puffy-faced and tired wasn’t ideal.

Amy: By the end of the week my feet were sore, I was tired, and I had a bit of a cry on our final night, but the trekkers got us all through it. The morale on the trek was simply incredible!

Sara: I knew it was going to be physically demanding. I was high energy and singing at the beginning but, by 4pm, with the last two or three kms of the day to go, everybody was exhausted and it was raining, I really felt the responsibility of my group. That was my personal struggle point.

It must have been very emotional…

amy dowden and carlos gu
carrying their giant boob! ©CoppaFeel!

Amy: Yes, it was. A lot of the women I met I was actually following when I was going throughout my journey. One lovely lady, Tabby, put a video on Instagram of her cutting her hair, and it inspired me then to be brave and do it myself. When we saw each other, I was like, “Ahhh!” It was so amazing to get to trek alongside her. On reflection, it was quite a week! I’m just so grateful for another shot at life.

Candice: There were lots of tears shed – of joy and happiness, frustration, sadness and anger. It was like a week-long therapy session. Crossing the finish line was a special moment. Lots of people cried: it was like an outlet and a release.

Giovanna: I had to take myself off and have a moment at times. I do this for Kris [Hallenga, the founder of Coppafeel! who died in May from the disease] – she’s my friend – and I felt her absence. It was really emotional to see Amy cross the finish line because I knew how much it meant to her, but also I knew how much it took for her to do that through sheer grit and determination and see her come full circle. One of Kris’ favourite songs was Praise You by FatBoy Slim. There was an amazing moment when we played that at the end, remembering and celebrating Kris and life.

giovanna fletcher
the gang! ©CoppaFeel!

Harry: There were tears shed by some women who found it physically demanding. At the end, it was emotional. But mainly, the vibe was upbeat, and everyone had a fun time.

How was it hiking with a giant boob?

Harry: We all took turns carrying it. I put it on my back.

Sara: You should have seen me trying to climb over the stiles with a giant boob strapped to my front. It’s no mean feat!

To donate to CoppaFeel!, please visit the CoppaFeel website.

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