Renowned for her tenacious journalism, the BBC broadcaster dealt with her cancer treatment by documenting every moment. Here she talks about the power of positivity and why she got a dog
On Monday 27 July 2015, at 4.35am, Victoria Derbyshire was in her kitchen, with the kettle on, Googling “inverted nipple” before leaving home to present her daily BBC2 current affairs programme. Google came up with a list of explanations, one of which was breast cancer. It is usually best to ignore online diagnoses but, in this instance, her preliminary search was right. By 29 July she was having a biopsy, by 31 July it was confirmed she had breast cancer, and on 24 September she had a single mastectomy. And at this point she did something unusual: she made a video of herself, sitting up in her hospital bed in an NHS gown, after coming round from the operation. Pale, then suddenly smiling, she held up two pieces of card. On one, she had written: “THIS MORNING I HAD BREAST CANCER.” Then she showed us the second: “THIS EVENING I DON’T!”
Watching the video, you notice she talks as if she feels she has had a narrow escape. She takes little breaths between words, as though resisting speechlessness. “Today I had a mastectomy and I feel – all right – I can’t believe it.” There is relief in her pronunciation of that slightly questioning “all right”. She looks from side to side, as if bad news might be lurking in the room. She describes the NHS team as inspiring, shows us the black arrow inked on to her right wrist (to make sure the surgeons did not operate on the wrong breast), and has an impressive shot at explaining breast reconstruction – the tucking in of the implant, the pulling down of skin, the hammocky mesh over which skin will eventually grow – although she casts around for the word “reconstruction”, almost lost to morphine.
Losing your hair makes you look like a cancer patient. I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me
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