Months ago, I signed up to volunteer as a media spokesperson for Breast Cancer Care and Macmillan. I had a long phone chat with both charities to discuss what I would be happy to do (interviews for certain newspapers, radio) and what I wouldn’t (Daily Mail, Sun etc). They asked whether I’d appear on TV. I said I’d think about it, if it came up.
On Friday, I was clearing up after breakfast with the kids when I got a text from someone at Macmillan, asking whether I was free that morning for an interview about the BRCA news story. As luck would have it, I’d actually managed to read a bit of news in bed, so I knew what she was talking about. I said I had the kids with me but I’d be happy to help if I could. When she called and explained that it was a TV interview (for the Victoria Derbyshire show), I had some misgivings, but I put them to one side. This was the first time Macmillan had asked me to do anything, and I wanted to say yes. So I said yes.
There followed a couple of hours of madness. Cancelling the plans I’d (just) made with friends. Getting changed and applying (minimal) makeup. Getting Joseph changed because I’d sort of said he might get to be on TV and he wanted to wear his new Star Wars jumper. Getting a bag packed with snacks and drinks and nappies and changes of clothes. Getting Joe’s rucksack packed with a few toys and books. Getting the car seats out of the car, so they could be put in the taxi that was being sent. And in between, one phone call after another from the BBC. While I was distracted, the kids took the opportunity to move every single item in the house from one room to another. Paul usually works from home on a Friday, but he was in London, and my mum is often around on Friday mornings, but she was looking after my poorly nephew. It was mayhem.
At ten o’clock, the taxi hadn’t turned up and the BBC decided it was too risky for me to set off any later, as they needed me at the BBC studio in Leicester by ten thirty at the latest. New plan. We’d do it over FaceTime. Joseph was devastated. The FaceTime thing didn’t count as being on TV, as far as he was concerned. I messaged my mum and asked whether she could leave the poorly nephew with my poorly dad for half an hour and come over to help me, and she turned up a few minutes later. The call came through, and it all went reasonably smoothly. I answered the questions without forgetting any everyday words (this happens to me a lot since chemo) and neither of the children did anything embarrassing. It was done. Mum went home.
Joseph and Elodie were pretty fed up, after being stuck inside and ignored for most of the morning. So we went to the park. We met a cat there that we see quite regularly. He’s white with black patches, and we call him Cow Cat. Elodie pointed at him and shouted ‘CA!’ I had no idea that she knew what a cat was, and it felt like a special moment. Joseph did his proud big brother bit, showing her how to stroke the cat gently. But then when we came to go home, he burst into tears. ‘I will miss that cat forever!’ he wailed. ‘I love him so much!’ An hour later, with lunch on the table, he was still crying. Every few minutes, between sobs, he shouted out ‘I love you, cat!’
The events of the morning seemed a long way away, but then my phone rang again, and it was someone from the BBC in London, and he wanted to know whether he could arrange for a film crew to come to my house to record a longer interview for the six o’clock and ten o’clock news. I said yes, and we waited for them to arrive. Things were calmer this time, as they were coming to us, and (more importantly) it was Elodie’s nap time.
When the reporter and cameraman arrived, Joseph emerged in his Darth Vader mask and was quite interested in what was going on for a couple of minutes, but then boredom set in. While the reporter asked me questions, Joseph kept wandering in and out of shot with a light saber. It took about an hour in total, with filming in three different rooms, and then they were gone.
Just before I took them upstairs for a bath, I put the kids on the sofa and turned on the news. Elodie doesn’t watch any TV yet, but for once in her life she sat still. Joseph had a lot of questions about the concept of news in general, and didn’t really bat an eyelid when we appeared. But once they were in bed and I’d put the house back together, I watched it again. I thought about friends and strangers watching it all over the country. And I hoped it would, in some small way, be helpful to someone who’s currently going through what I was going through a year ago.
The next morning, Facebook threw up a blog post I’d put up a year before, when I was preparing for my double mastectomy. It seemed like a strange coincidence, given that I’d spent the previous day thinking and talking about the decision to have that operation. Despite the latest findings, I’m glad I’m here and not there, still waiting for it to happen, still capable of changing my mind. I know that, whatever the studies said, I would have felt like a ticking time bomb if I’d kept my breasts. Much as I hate having lost them, I’m still pretty glad that they’re gone.
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