I was lucky enough to spend an hour or so this morning with one of my childhood, Saturday-morning, television-presenter heroes, Michaela Strachan. Sitting in the green room before we both went on air at London Live, I had a chat with Michaela about her recent experiences with boobs, cancer and all that jazz. Michaela spoke so openly about her brave decision to have a double mastectomy followed by another bold brainwave to share her news with the press, becoming an ambassador for Breakthrough Breast Cancer - the UK's leading charity dedicated to stopping people getting and dying from breast cancer. I was totally in awe of her approach to this recent scary life chapter and her seemingly buoyant nature, enabling her to share to the peaks and troughs of this period with us all.
And it's certainly a gratefully received sharing moment. I - for one - have had my whole thought process re. cancer, and operations that may follow diagnosis, totally transformed today. All thanks to Michaela. The wildlife presenter is the first person I've ever met, or known of, who's spoken about this subject in such a frank, and fantastically honest way. She told me literally (that's got to be one the first times I've used that word properly) what the process of having a mastectomy is like: from the decision of whether to 'do' one or the pair, the original saline-filled bags used, the 'blow up' process that follows and, most importantly, the happy news that she now feels 'great'! I'm sure, a whirlwind tour that in no way covers the emotional journey she's been on, but still a refreshingly positive, progressive outlook shared by somebody who's clearly always visualized the 'healing' process from the outset of hearing the C-word. All very inspiring stuff!
We've had the fear taken out of (or we're on our way to at least...) smear tests with the #NoFearGoSmear campaign. Championed by Dr Dawn Harper who fearlessly had her smear on live, national TV. Gutsy. It's about time that mastectomy's are given the same treatment. The word means nothing to us non-medics, we want the (gory, perhaps) details to get our heads around it. So thank you, Michaela for doing this so powerfully.
Michaela also mentioned her gratitude for the number of tweets that had flooded in since her announcement on Sunday. (She'd chosen to go public with her story in October - Breast Cancer Awareness Month - after keeping it under wraps while filming a new BBC Two wildlife show). It all went without a hitch, until she saw some of the more negative (an understatement) tweets this morning. The vast majority of tweets to Michaela are, as you'd expect, positive and affirming however there are a few commenting on the media stunt, and monetary, aspects of Michaela's revelation. Incredibly hurtful I'm sure. And what an inverted outlook to take on the situation - rather than appreciating someone who's using their public profile as a voice to raise awareness and calm/support/inform/advise others, to instead wish they'd kept shtum, denying others the opportunity to hear and benefit from their know-how. We are all absolutely enriched by hearing others life experiences and never more so than when - like now - someone's spilling the beans on a taboo subject like this. So, thank you, Michaela. I certainly won't be forgetting our chat for a long time.
More chat in this week's vlog...