Yesterday on social media, former Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding shared the news that she has breast cancer and that it has spread to other areas of her body. I came across it on Twitter. As soon as I saw the photo of her in a hospital gown, I thought ‘breast cancer’.
That’s not all that surprising. One in eight women in the UK will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Think about eight women you know – mum friends, university friends, work colleagues. One of them, or you.
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Hi everyone, I hope you are all keeping safe and well during these uncertain times. I’ve not posted on here for so long, thank you to everyone who has reached out to check in on me, it really does mean a lot. I feel now is the right time to share what’s been going on. There’s no easy way to say this and actually it doesn’t even feel real writing this, but here goes. Earlier this year I was diagnosed with breast cancer and a couple of weeks ago I received the devastating news that the cancer has advanced to other parts of my body. I’m currently undergoing weekly chemotherapy sessions and I am fighting as hard as I possibly can. I understand this might be shocking to read on social media and that really isn’t my intention. But last week it was mentioned online that I had been seen in hospital, so I feel now is the time to let people know what’s going on and this is the best way I can think of to do so. My amazing mum, family and close friends are helping me through this, and I want to say a thank you to the wonderful NHS doctors and nurses who have been and continue to be heroes. I am doing my very best to keep positive and will keep you updated here with how I’m getting on. In the meantime I hope you’ll all understand and respect my request for privacy during this difficult time. Sending you all so much love….xx
When I was twenty-five, Kylie Minogue was diagnosed. It was all over the media, of course, and I was shocked. I’d loved this woman since she was Charlene in Neighbours, and she was so young. But it didn’t make me check myself.
Five years later, when I was thirty, my mum was diagnosed. It was awful and shocking and it made me really think about what was important. But, to my shame, it didn’t make me check myself. I didn’t think it would happen to me. Fun fact: no-one ever thinks it will happen to them.
Another five years on, it was my turn. I was thirty-five, pregnant, and I had breast cancer. And it took that for me to realise that I wasn’t immortal, that it can happen to anyone, that cancer doesn’t discriminate, or care how much you love or are loved. Cancer doesn’t care how important it is that you are there to see your children grow up. Cancer is a fucker, and it can come for you, no matter who you are.
I was lucky. I didn’t feel lucky, but I was. My cancer was caught early, and it hadn’t progressed to anywhere else in my body. It took chemo and four operations, it took the removal of both my breasts and my ovaries, but we’re as sure as we can be that my cancer has gone. I’m four years post diagnosis. At five years, you get a unicorn. Or the chances of a recurrence fall significantly. Something like that.
I’m forty now. My children are six and four. Next week, my baby (who was born early so I could start treatment) starts school. I’ve lived to see that. I’ve also lived to see my first three books published, including one about a young mum with breast cancer, called ‘I Wanted You To Know’. Lucky.
Sarah Harding is less lucky. Her cancer has already spread. She’s younger than me, not yet forty. I remember watching her on Popstars, back when I was invincible. I bet she thought she was invincible too.
I wish her all the very best, and I hope she finds the support she needs, the support I found, not just from family and friends but from other women in the same boat. It’s a big boat, and there are a lot of us sailing in it, and we do everything we can to help one another to keep paddling.
Please don’t be like me. Don’t wait until you are diagnosed to realise that you might get cancer. Please check your breasts. Do it properly. Do it regularly. Do it now.