Broadcaster Victoria Derbyshire plans to marry her partner of 15 years – and will go on Strictly if she is asked.
The BBC journalist was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 and underwent a single mastectomy and received both chemotherapy and radiotherapy during her successful treatment for the disease.
Derbyshire was just four months into a new current affairs show on BBC Two and the BBC News Channel when she received the devastating news and decided she should marry her partner Mark Sandell.
It took just five days from suspecting she may have cancer to being diagnosed and she said it was difficult to accept that her own body had turned on her.
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“I didn’t want to elevate it on those terms, to be any more scary or terrifying than it is,” Derbyshire told the Cheltenham Literature Festival.
“I was doing everything in my power to diminish it, to normalise it, to compare it to other illnesses, I didn’t want to make it more powerful than it is because, psychologically, how I felt to confront it.
“For me having a cancer diagnosis was a watershed in my life. I can’t say now that I live life to the full because I felt I didn’t not live life to the full before.
“Now I have a perspective I didn’t have before. I am a little bit calmer and I try not to get stressed about things.
“I was really cross when I got the diagnosis. Between noticing something was wrong and being diagnosed was five days.
“In that period of time I already knew I had cancer, there was no other logical explanation. It felt like I wasn’t breathing until I had the confirmation.
“I felt like I had been crushed by a giant fist, completely battered, then I was composed. I clicked into practical and pragmatic to cope with cancer.”
Derbyshire said she told her partner immediately but did not tell her children or family until she knew several weeks later that her cancer was treatable.
“My first official day of living with cancer was Saturday August 1 2015 and I woke up and I suddenly remembered I’ve got cancer,” she said.
“So I got up and went downstairs and Mark is already working at his laptop and I announced to him that I thought we had been together for 15 years and we should get married.
“But I said to him: ‘I do not want you to marry me just because you feel sorry for me.’ He looked at me intently, he’s been married before, and he said with a completely straight face: ‘I think marriage is overrated to be honest.’
“It completely broke the tension and we laughed and, yeah, one day we will get married… but I’m not telling you when.”
Derbyshire said she has enormous respect for single parents having watched her partner juggle a career, looking after their two boys Oliver and Joe, and cooking meals while she was ill.
She praised the public for “not giving a [bleep]” about her appearance when she returned to work during her treatment, as she was wearing a wig, had lost her eyebrows and her face was swollen.
“What was in my head the whole time was ‘I can do this because I am not going to die. Of course I can do the treatment because the alternative is death’,” she said.
“I am one of the lucky ones, and that is always in my head.
“I am grateful every single day. Cancer is a lottery and some of us will die from cancer, it’s outrageous and unfair. I just happen to be one of the lucky ones. I am so grateful.”
And should Strictly Come Dancing ever come calling, Derbyshire would not hesitate in appearing.
“If they ever asked me I would say yeah, because actually now I really do know that life is short. So I would just say yes to everything,” she said.
:: Victoria Derbyshire was chatting to Libby Purves at the Cheltenham Literature Festival to promote her book Dear Cancer, Love Victoria.