This story was originally published in The Guardian on Friday 31 August and can be found here

In 2017, Rebecca Henderson was diagnosed with cancer of the heart, which is extremely rare. Doctors at Harefield Hospital concluded that the only way to save Rebecca's life was to remove her heart and replace it with a totally artificial one (TAH), which is made of biocompatible plastic and acts as a pump:

"By the time they opened me up, the tumour had grown to the size of a fist. My heart had changed shape to try to allow blood to squeeze around the cancerous tissue. But there was no way they could salvage it. When I came round I was just relieved to be alive. But I could hear the loud thumping of my new heart, which was connected to a large pump. I now have a smaller pump that weighs 7kg and fits in a backpack. It’s still noisy, but I put up with it. My heart’s valves are made of metal, and when people hug me, they make a click-clack noise.

I came home from hospital in April. I’m the 19th person in the UK to get a TAH, and only the second of those to leave hospital. Apparently, I’m the only person in the world with a TAH as a treatment for heart cancer (they are usually fitted for heart failure). A few years ago, they didn’t have the right size and strength for women and teenagers (50cc), only the 70cc for men. I’m attached to the pump by two tubes coming out of my stomach. I have to make sure it’s charged at all times. At cafes, we have to sit near plug sockets. I have to plug myself in to stay alive. The batteries last for 2½ hours, but at about the two-hour point, a loud alarm sounds. It’s happened once, in a supermarket.

I’ve been cancer-free since the removal of my heart and if I remain so until January, I will go on the transplant list. Getting a donor heart will give me back some normality. I’m returning to university in October, when I will apply for PhDs. My dreams have changed. I will most likely have to adopt in order to have children (because of the chemotherapy and the impact a pregnancy could have on my heart). I hoped to visit 30 countries before 30, but now it’s before I’m 50.

Rebecca is fundraising for our Harefield Fun Run on Sunday 9 September in support of our Transplant Appeal, to give back to the hospital that saved her life. If you would like to support our Appeal, you can do so here.