A nurse who has seen the horrors of war at first hand and successfully battled cancer is aiming for a fresh start thanks to a life-changing TV show.
Andrea Davies-Tuthill, 52, from Merthyr Tydfil, who recently finished treatment for breast cancer, wants to restore her health and stamina by taking part in a popular S4C programme, FFIT Cymru.
Her skills as a theatre nurse are also used in her work with the Army Reserve for 34 years, which has seen her deployed to Afghanistan to treat both soldiers and civilians injured in the conflict.
Andrea jumped at the chance of being a health leader on FFIT Cymru, made by Caernarfon-based production company Cwmni Da and presented by Lisa Gwilym, with the programme being shown at 9pm on Tuesday evenings.
But over a two-month period Andrea and the four other leaders from all over Wales are aiming to transform their health by following bespoke fitness and food plans set by the programme’s four experts, including former Love Island star and fitness coach Connagh Howard.
Andrea has been joined in the programme by Kelly O’Donnell, 41, a teaching assistant from Bethel near Caernarfon; social worker Linette Gwilym, 33, from Llanrug near Caernarfon; Matthew Rees, 46, butcher from Carmarthen and chapel minister Dylan Parry, 34, originally from Caernarfon but now living in Bridgend in South Wales.
At the start of the programme’s third week Andrea travelled with the others to the Llaeth y Llan dairy in Llannefydd, near Denbigh, and created two new recipes for the successful company’s online cookbook, using the fat free yogurts recently introduced by the family business.
According to Andrea, her battle with cancer started in 2020 when she was diagnosed with the condition.
She said: “I’ve had chemotherapy, radiation and radio therapy and that has taken a toll on my body but I’m still here.
“But the whole thing has thrown my life into chaos. I put on a lot of weight starting with the steroids I had to take. You think about people who get cancer becoming thin but I went the other way.
“I didn’t realise how much the treatment would take out of me. It’s like a nuclear assault. I used to be able to climb Moel Siabod and Yr Wyddfa. I ran a bit, I did half-marathons. Nowadays I get tired, I don’t have the stamina. I just want to develop myself and be strong again.
“I think this might change my life and be on the right track once again.”
Her family, husband Gwynne, daughters Carys, and Cerian, and stepdaughter, Jenna, are behind her all the way.
The latest step in the journey took the health leaders to Llaeth y Llan where director Owain Roberts said the company was responding to the demand for healthy foods and changing eating trends by making a fat free Greek-style yogurt.
“It is a fairly new product and has been a success for the company. And we now offer interesting recipes that include yogurt as one of the main ingredients, and the task for the leaders was to create a two course meal using yogurt as one of the main ingredients.
Matthew, Kelly and Andrea stuffed a chicken fillet with cream-cheese, garlic and Llaeth y Llan yogurt and wrapped it in Carmarthen Ham and served with sauteed spinach and roasted tomatoes on the vine. Made by Matthew’s family for generations he said the meat, which his family proudly sell on their stall in Carmarthen Market, is first salted for five to six weeks and then hung for up to nine months. He had brought it with him to Llannefydd especially for the programme.
He claimed when the Romans visited the town hundreds of years ago they had taken the recipe back to Italy and from it Parma Ham emerged.
“It’s a story my grandfather often told and some believe him and others don’t,” he smiled.
Linette linked up with Dylan to make a baked cheesecake garnished with strawberries, rasperries, blueberries and mint.
Owain Roberts gave the thumbs up to both recipes which will soon be available the Llaeth y Llan website, www.villagedairy.co.uk
Connagh Howard, who hails from Cardiff, is responsible for setting and supervising the weekly challenges which feature in the programme.
“Fitness is something that has always been a big part of my life and having the opportunity to help others with that is such an incredible experience and I’m just really proud to be able to help people,” he said.
The other experts include personal trainer Rae Carpenter, psychologist Dr Ioan Rees, and dietician and former Great British Bake Off star Beca Lyne-Pirkis.
Series producer Siwan Haf said: “FFIT Cymru is essentially about taking a group of people who want to transform their lives and showing them how they can improve through healthy eating, improved fitness and improved mental health.
“It’s a unique multimedia platform that can offer guidance and a practical helping hand.
“Viewers can take part at home too by following the special food and fitness plans online on the FFIT Cymru website, www.s4c.cymru/fitcymru, and on social media @ffitcymru for free.
FFIT Cymru is broadcast on S4C on Tuesday evenings at 9pm. English subtitles are available. The programme can be seen on demand at S4C Clic, BBC iPlayer and other streaming platforms.