OK to talk about cancer


‘I heard the most amazing thing today. It was a bloke off the radio, don’t remember his name, does that media show on Radio 4. Knew his voice instantly. Brilliant interviewer. Didn’t know it was on, he was on I mean, he was talking to Eddie Mair on PM. And the thing was he was being interviewed, not doing the interviewing, talking to Eddie Mair, and I knew before he had said two words that he was talking about his cancer, that it had spread, that he was looking at palliative chemotherapy only. It was his bowel. And it had gone to his liver, mets he said the doctor told him. And he said what are those and the doctor said it has spread, and then he said that in all this, during all these harrowing meetings he wasn’t sad, he wasn’t upset, I’ve had a charmed life, he said, I’ve interviewed Colonel Gaddafi, you’ve even met me said Eddie Mair, and he said, right, I’ve met you, and then he said, but the thing that I found hard, and forgive me if I don’t make it through this without losing it, was telling my kids, not just because it’s sad, because it is, it’s because you are reminded what they mean to you, and it’s, but then you suddenly realise what you mean to them, the look on their faces just telling you, and that isn’t something you are given very often, ever, really, and that was what I found hard, telling my kids. And though it was ten years ago I was right back there, telling them, grateful to the radio for reminding me, marvelling how rarely we hear that kind of honesty, and I just thought you might like to know. Steve Hewlett, that was his name.’

‘Ant,’ the book says. ‘It’s OK. It’s OK to still talk about your cancer you know.’



  1. That was a good one Anthony. I presume only the book calls you Ant. It certainly is ok to talk about Cancer. 17 years now. For both me and my boy. Although he didn’t make it and I did. I talk about it every time I think it might help. But unless I’m reminded, as with you and the interview, I do forget it. Forget completely, not just ignore, to the extent that when people put on That face and That voice and ask me How I Am, I am genuinely puzzled – for a moment. Thanks Anthony. (it’s also really good source material for a prompt!)

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I heard it. Impactful. At the time I wondered how people with first-hand experience of Steve Hewlett’s situation (see, I can’t bring myself to use that word) would be reacting:
    1. Throwing china at radio at rage that he gets to talk to the nation about it when they had no such opportunity.
    2. Upset at the way Hewlett was approaching it (very matter-of-fact and public. You could tell he is a journalist).
    3. Filling in the gaps between Hewlett’s sentences.
    4. Reacting to Mair’s relaxed response (+ or -).
    5. Wondering why a news programme gave so much time to the issue. Is this a sea-change in the public / media attitude to cancer?
    Now I know how one person has reacted. (You.) Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi John. I am glad you saw this, and glad that you are still out there keeping me honest. I found a book you lent me the other day by the way. I think the programme was all the things you say. I don’t think we are quite at the sea-change moment yet, but we are nearly there, nearly. Above all, I liked his tone, so different from the warlike notes of the Stand Up to Cancer campaign, which is driven by celebrities. As ever with best wishes, Ant


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