Terminally ill woman from Pontybodkin honoured by Queen


David Humphreys

A WOMAN given a terminal cancer diagnosis has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Sylvia Heyes, 69, has been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for her years of service to veterans through her work as secretary and journal editor of the 656 Squadron Association.

The award announcement comes after Mrs Heyes, of Corwen Road, Pontybodkin, near Mold, received the terrible news that she had terminal cancer in January.

She has vowed to remain positive and said the surprise of being included in the honours list was a “welcome boost”.

“They told me I have mesothelioma, which means I’ve been exposed to asbestos at some point,” she said.

“It was devastating, I had no idea whatsoever. It came as a big shock.

“It doesn’t feel like it’s happening to me. It doesn’t feel real.

“I’ve been having treatment for the last six months but it will end soon.

“I have a couple of rounds of chemotherapy left.

“They say people can live up to six years with terminal cancer, but I want 10.

“The award has been so uplifting and the association has been so supportive, as have my family.”

Mrs Heyes was involved with the 656 Squadron Association for 12 years up until this year, primarily as the association’s journal editor.

The 69-year-old got involved with the group alongside her late husband, John, 70, who served in the squadron and was the association’s secretary until his death in October 2011.

Mrs Heyes stepped in to her husband’s role after his death, as well as juggling her existing commitments and she emphasised the importance of the association to her.

“The organisation is wonderful. When my husband died, they really looked out for me,” she said.

656 Air Observation Post Squadron (AP) formed in December 1942 at RAF Westley, Suffolk.

Between 1943 and 1946 the squadron operated from India, Burma and the Dutch East Indies.

It also flew missions during the Korean War in the 1950s and after a reorganisation, its members saw action in the Falklands and Afghanistan.

Mrs Heyes said: “The award has come as a complete surprise.

“I didn’t believe it when I received the letter.

“I had to read it a few dozen times before I believed it.”

“The letter said I was sworn to secrecy until the list was revealed and my family are very excited.

“I’m very much looking forward to receiving the medal. I’ve just no idea when that will be.”

Mrs Heyes added that now she has a BEM, she hopes to achieve some further outstanding ambitions, including having a go on the high-speed zip wire in Snowdonia.

l The 656 Squadron Association is a society for all serving and ex-serving personnel who are or were with 656 Squadron, its associated flights and workshops.

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