NOW that Sarah Harding has told us she has cancer, I sincerely hope she will find some comfort not only from the huge outpouring of love and sympathy, but also the knowledge that she will almost certainly save lives.
When anyone high profile (and especially as young as Sarah who is only 38) talks openly about their illness, it raises awareness and encourages others to check for signs of the disease.
We saw this happen with tragic reality star Jade Goody, who died of cervical cancer in 2009, and saved countless young women from a similar fate by encouraging them to have smear tests.
The same occurred when Lynda Bellingham died of colon cancer six years ago.
It made people think about their own health and realise cancer does not respect fame, fortune or how good and kind a person happens to be.
Our very own Sun Online columnist, “Bowel Babe” Deborah James, who is living with stage four bowel cancer, has also saved lives by changing attitudes and preventing people dying of embarrassment because they were too mortified to talk about bums and poo.
Closer to home, for me, was the news that my friend and producer, Helen Addis, had been diagnosed with breast cancer almost two years ago at exactly the same age as Sarah.
Helen, who is a mum of three young children, is not only astonishingly brave, she also launched the Change And Check campaign supported by the likes of Madonna and Corrie’s Sally Dynevor — a fellow cancer survivor.
Helen’s brilliant idea was to have stickers in mirrors in the changing rooms of stores, gyms and workplaces showing clearly and simply the signs of breast cancer and urging people to check their boobs.
We know that Helen’s hard work has already prevented people from dying and she’s been passionate about it during the pandemic, repeatedly telling everyone that it’s more important than ever to go to your GP with any health concerns or worries.
Back in the early days of Covid-19, many people were afraid to visit their doctor or the hospital, meaning a possible delay in cancer diagnosis that could put lives at risk.
Despite the current backlog in treatment, it’s absolutely vital to get checked out.
Meanwhile, Sarah is facing her own struggle against this cruel disease, but she is not alone.
Her Girls Aloud bandmates have put aside any petty differences they might have had to unite to help their friend.
Having someone you love go through a life-threatening illness puts everything into perspective, and you realise what really matters.
The girls will be doing all they can to support Sarah, who is living with her mum right now while she goes through chemotherapy treatment.
Her breast cancer has spread to other parts of her body, but Sarah remains as positive as possible and has sincerely thanked the NHS for their help and support.
Like all of you, I send her buckets of love and best wishes, as well as the hope she manages to pull through with the help of her family, friends and everyone who cares about her.
I hope that all of your positivity, as well as the fact she is helping others, gives Sarah some light in the darkest of times.
At the zoo…but little boy's blue
I SPENT a brilliant day at London Zoo with my daughter this week.
We really enjoyed seeing the animals, learning about conservation and also eating ice cream and going a bit wild in the gift shop.
Everything has been so carefully and intelligently designed to make it safe for all of us to enjoy the experience, and great care has been taken to make the animals feel happy and secure.
I especially loved the recreation of the Sasan Gir region in India’s Gujarat State, the setting for the Zoo’s extremely rare and endangered Asiatic lions.
There are only around 600 left in the wild, and this is the closest most of us will get to actually being there.
It’s worth a visit just for this experience alone, but there’s so much more to see.
I made a beeline for the penguins, along with a gaggle of extremely excited toddlers, and spent ages watching them swim, waddle and enjoy frozen fish lollipops.
It was so good to see families all enjoying time together and encouraging their kids to ask endless questions. (Don’t worry if you don’t know the answer – the staff are brilliant, endlessly patient and love sharing their knowledge).
I also saw something that made me really sad.
In front of us for a big part of the day was a little boy of about four years old with his dad.
But unlike all the other children who were having the time of their lives, this little one had his head down and looked really glum.
That’s because his father was on his mobile phone with work calls constantly, and barely looked at his son the entire time.
Now I am sure his job is very important, but I cannot believe those calls were a matter of life and death.
If he did have to be available to his bosses then why take his poor son on a day out in the first place if he was only going to ignore him?
These special family outings are a way to build precious memories.
When I look back at the day we had together, it will always make me smile to recall that I shortsightedly thought a llama was a rather large goat and how Rosie snapped the perfect photo of a giraffe.
What that little boy will remember is that whoever was on the other end of the phone was far more important to his dad than he was, and that’s such a shame.
What made the whole situation even more heartbreaking was that the little lad wasn’t even trying to get his father’s attention.
There was no attempt to grab his dad’s trouser leg and point out the splendid gorillas or beautiful Sumatran tiger.
Instead he just glumly dragged his feet behind his neglectful father, who bellowed into his phone as though he was shouting into a gale.
His son was clearly used to being ignored and realised it was pointless trying to be noticed.
That dad will never get back those precious hours with his son again, and if he acts this way when he is supposed to be bonding with his boy, what is he like at home?
I feel so sorry for the child, but also for his dad, who has no idea what he is missing out on.
Maybe he feels he has done his fatherly duty and will chalk the outing off his “to-do” list, but he’s slowly but surely alienating his son.
It reminded me of that old Seventies song Cat’s In The Cradle, by Harry Chapin, about a dad always making excuses instead of spending time with his boy, and when he finally retires and actually wants to be with his grown-up lad, he is himself fobbed off.
You really do reap what you sow.
Surely we can all put down our phones for a couple of hours to fully concentrate on our kids, and only use mobiles to take a few snaps or videos.
Otherwise there’s a danger children will turn their backs on their parents, and even more disturbingly will mimic such behaviour with their own kids.
Maybe we should take a tip from the wonderful animal parents at London Zoo, who devote all their time and attention to their offspring and never take them for granted.
Back in the chair
A HUGE thank you to my esteemed friends Christine Lampard and Andi Peters for doing such a splendid job hosting my Lorraine show over the summer.
They were both absolutely brilliant and it was a real relief to leave my “baby” in such competent hands.
I will be back on screen on ITV on Tuesday morning at 9am as usual.
Hope to see you then.
Honey's so right on diets
COULDN’T agree more with Honey Ross, daughter of TV presenter Jonathan and writer Jane Goldman, when she slams diets as being “toxic”.
I’ve been saying for decades that diets don’t work and only end up making you fatter and more miserable.
Honey is a proud body-positive campaigner and talks a lot of sense about how you can be happy and healthy without being ultra-slim.
For me, it’s about never feeling inadequate because you don’t have a “perfect” body (who does?) and being able to enjoy food without self-loathing and guilt.
As long as you are eating reasonably well and having a bit of exercise you are doing fine.
Listen to Honey.
Don’t fall into the diet trap, and be a bit less hard on yourself.
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