Five years ago, South Morang mum-of-three Cindy Duson went home from work with a runny nose feeling a little out-of-sorts.
Hours later, Cindy, then 42, was grasping a doctor's hands and being told she was in big trouble, having suffered two heart attacks and with her coronary arteries almost fully blocked.
And now, five years on, the Lalor Warriors Cricket Club member is regarded as one of the best fielders in the local competition, with statistics matching up against some of the top women in the country.
It’s a whirlwind story of courage and determination which Cindy hopes will encourage women to begin their physical activity journey.
“Someone at my age thinking you can’t do it, you can. I’m the prime example of that,” Cindy said.
Cindy’s incredible story began in 2016, on an ordinary work day, when she felt a cold coming on.
“I came in for morning tea and the girls said ‘are you OK?’ and I said ‘I’ve just got nothing left, I’m tired’. They said ‘go home and rest’ but I said ‘I’m OK, I’ll get through the day’,” Cindy said.
It wasn’t until 2am the next day that she woke feeling “freezing cold” - but, with no pain down her arm, a heart attack never crossed her mind, and she waited eight hours before going to hospital.
There, a preliminary electrocardiogram (ECG) came back clear – but a second revealed the worst.
“The doctor grabbed my hand and said ‘look at me Cindy, you’re in trouble’. I was gone. I had one artery blocked at 100 per cent and another at 72 per cent. I was only 42, I wasn’t even thinking I was having a heart attack,” she said.
“Being a long weekend, it was crazy, they didn’t have surgeons on, they were running from room to room. All I could say to my husband as they were wheeling me out was ‘tell the kids I love them’, because I didn’t think I was coming back.”
Incredibly, surgeons inserted a stent, and she was back at work in two weeks – but says the journey to recovery was slow, and she was too frightened to play sport.
“It took a lot out of me – I felt like a 90-year-old lady when I came home, I couldn’t even walk up the passageway without being exhausted.”
But then, last November, a friend mentioned she was going to play for the Lalor Warriors, and Cindy – who enjoyed indoor cricket when she was younger – decided to tag along, persuading her daughter, Paige, 17, to go too.
The pair soon discovered their natural talent, with Cindy’s season fielding stats now comparing with some of the best players in the country, including Brisbane Heat’s Georgia Redmayne and Adelaide Strikers’ Tegan McPharlin.
“It’s a pretty amazing achievement, I’m over the moon about it at my age,” Cindy said.
Lalor Warriors President Nadia Falvo said it was evident Cindy was a true sportsperson from the moment she arrived at the club.
“She is very warm, encouraging to everybody, such a positive attitude, always willing to help us develop our skills and get better at what we do,” Nadia says.
“She just gives 100 per cent all the time – she won’t give up, she is an absolute true warrior.
“She makes a massive impact on our team, and you should see her catch, she’s like an octopus – any ball that comes her way, she’ll grab it.
“I think the beautiful thing about it is to just watch her and Paige play out there together, mother and daughter – I love that, there’s not many sports that can happen.”
Nadia encouraged women to have a go at sport, acknowledging “talking yourself into it” was often the hardest part.
“Get out there, try it, if it’s not your thing or you don’t like it, you’ll make some new friends at the least.
“Back yourself, really – I think that’s the main thing.”