Julia Bradbury discusses her breast cancer diagnosis
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The presenter, 51, confirmed this weekend she is having a mastectomy next month to remove a 6cm tumour from her left breast. Only last week she broke the news of her devastating diagnosis to son Zeph, 10, and six-year-old daughters Zena and Xanthe. Julia told the three children, who she shares with property developer husband Gerard Cunningham, while walking around their garden at home.
She tearfully revealed yesterday how Xanthe responded by asking: “Mummy can I still hug you?”
Julia explained: “I said: ‘Yes darling, I need your hugs more than ever.’
“They were OK. I have told them to ask whatever they want…how honest can you be with children without scaring them?”
The BBC star said appearing on the red carpet earlier this month in an off-the-shoulder outfit at the National Television Awards was a “kind of goodbye to the body I’ve been living in all these years”.
Describing how she reacted to her diagnosis, she added: “It changes your world forever in an instant.
“There is no preparing you for those words. You hear ‘cancer’ and your brain starts to explode.
“The cruel thing about human beings is we are the only creatures on the planet who know we are going to die. We all live in hope of a peaceful end in our beds, having had children and grandchildren, or having fulfilled whatever mission in life we choose.
“But the word cancer is so ugly it makes you think of the most unimaginably horrible death. That’s the reality of it. It is arbitrary and unfair.
“I have to hope I have caught mine early enough.”
After discussing options with her medical team, Julia decided to have a mastectomy. Surgeons will also take tissue from her lymph nodes to establish if the disease has spread.
Julia explained: “A mastectomy is a shattering thing to go through but it means that I am going to live and be here for my children. Cancer has so many points, the diagnosis seems like everything, but it isn’t.
“It puts you on a pathway and you have to navigate that while holding back your emotions, so you are not overwhelmed all the time. Right now I’m simply focused on having surgery. I don’t know how I am going to be, if I will have more cancer to deal with, how I will cope with recovery, how life will feel afterwards.”
Julia said doctors last year found a breast lump that proved to be a cluster of benign micro-cysts. And in July she had a mammogram, physical examination and ultrasound – just before going on holiday – which gave no cause for alarm. But her sister Gina insisted she keep a follow-up appointment earlier this month, and during a second ultrasound doctors spotted a “tiny shadow”.
Of a follow-up biopsy, she added: “Suddenly I was lying down on my side having a machine like a hole punch taking lumps out of my breast.”
She waited for the results over one agonisingly long weekend, recalling how she stared at her body in a mirror. “I was holding my breasts and thinking I like my boobs; I don’t want anything to happen to them.
“Then the statistics start flying around your head, one in eight women get breast cancer, the danger zone is between 50 and 75, you can’t help thinking that it’s only human.”
Now she is clinging to “positives”.
Doctors believe the cancer is confined to her milk ducts and has not yet spread to the breast tissue – so may not need chemotherapy.
Julia said she wept when she learnt of the recent death of Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding aged just 39 – also of breast cancer.
She admitted: “I cried so hard because she found a lump and did not do anything. What happened to her is not some sort of lesson, it is a tragedy.
“We must, must, must check ourselves and seek help. Being scared of a diagnosis could be the thing which kills you. So learn what to look for and check, check, check. Doctors are experts but only you can press a lump, know how it feels and think you should do something about it.”
Baroness Morgan, Breast Cancer Now chief, backed Julia: “By speaking out about her experience, she’s helping raise awareness of the importance of being breast aware. The sooner breast cancer is found the more successful treatment is likely to be.
“It makes it vital that women continue to check their breasts regularly and get any new or unusual changes checked with the GP. We also encourage women to attend breast screening appointments when invited.”
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