Julia Bradbury admitted she was ‘overwhelmed’ and tearfully broke down during her pre-op ahead of her mastectomy following her breast cancer diagnosis.
The Countryfile presenter, 51, explained that the exposure was a reminder of what the surgeons would be doing the following morning, and that it was her ‘last day of being me’, before the removal of her left breast.
The mother of three candidly detailed her cancer journey in a new ITV documentary – titled Breast Cancer And Me – as she shared her struggles with coming to terms with her diagnosis and upcoming operation.
Devastation: Julia Bradbury admitted she was ‘overwhelmed’ and tearfully broke down during her pre-op ahead of her mastectomy following her breast cancer diagnosis
One scene during the hour-long documentary showed Julia in hospital – accompanied by her older sister Gina – as a nurse marked up where the surgeon needed to remove a lymph node to check if the cancer has spread.
Julia looked tearful as they completed the mark up on the location of her nearest lymph node, so that they were able to easily locate it when they operated the following day.
She later said during a confessional that she felt the experience tipped her over the edge because it was a reminder of what the surgeons would be doing to her the following day.
She explained: ‘I felt suddenly overwhelmed then when she exposed my breast. I just thought that’s what’s going to happen tomorrow morning. That was just a bit more emotional than I thought it would be. It’s my last day of being me and having my full body and boobs.
Mark: The Countryfile presenter, 51, explained that the exposure was a reminder of what the surgeons would be doing the following morning, and that it was her ‘last day of being me’, before the removal of her left breast
Powerful: Julia was seen showing the results of her mastectomy and reconstruction
‘When I lay down and she exposed my breast, I’m not shy it’s not about body image, I just thought when she did it and started touching about that area, that’s what they’re going to be doing tomorrow. Chopping it open and taking it away, taking the cancer away but changing me forever.
‘My surgeon has been in and marked up my body, you feel like you’ve been tattooed a bit, he explained that he just wants to get the symmetry right because when you lay down it looks different. It’s a weird process.
‘I’ve been pretty strong today, I don’t think I’ve cried today. I’ve cried most days while this has been going on. But today I’m a bit, it’s overwhelming, but for all the women who have gone through it and will go through it, this is the best possible thing to get me through to the other side.’
Julia has shared her journey after first learning she had cancer in September last year, admitting that she ‘didn’t feel she had a choice’ about going public with the diagnosis.
During her experience, Julia filmed a video diary and explained how she had to hold her children for the last time three days before the surgery, she said: ‘I started self-isolating this morning. I took all my kids to school and waved goodbye at the gates. Then we all knew that I wouldn’t be able to hug them again until after the operation.
All access: The mother of three candidly detailed her cancer journey in a new ITV documentary – titled Breast Cancer And Me – as she shared her struggles with coming to terms with her diagnosis and upcoming operation
‘It’s an extra layer of complication that makes this horrible process even s****er. I don’t mind saying that I’m scared now and now it’s real dread that I’m feeling. You hope it’s a dream and you’re wrong.’
The hour-long documentary opened with Julia filming a woodland segment for This Morning, when she was awaiting the results of a recent biopsy – but she refused to take the call while away from home because there was nobody she felt ‘close to’ that would be able to support her.
Julia said: ‘I was away with a new team, up trees and there were emails back and forth about when I could take this call to hear the results of a biopsy I’d had done a week before, on a lump in my left breast.
‘I knew I wouldn’t be able to take the call because I wasn’t prepared for it to be bad news and I wasn’t with someone I knew, to be able to ask to take some time out to process it.
Operation: Julia was marked up before operation – as she spoke of what her breasts had done for her throughout her life – including feeding her children
After waiting to take the call at home, Julia recalls how she was told their was a ‘big tumour’ in her left breast, adding: ‘So I thought I’d delay that until I was back. I was ready for the call and I was here at home, it was a sunny day and my consultant called and said you do have cancer. And it’s a big tumour.’
Julia, who shares her kids – Zephyr, 10, and twins Xanthe and Zena, both seven, with husband Joe Cunningham, kept her diagnosis hidden for a while because she didn’t want her children to hear the news from anyone else.
She said: ‘When you hear the words ‘you’ve got cancer’, your world stops. It is like moving instantly into slow motion. Just thought shit, okay, I’ve got to live. I need and want to be here.
Change: Julia spoke of her fears ahead of the operation as she prepared for the procedure
‘I didn’t want the information about my breast cancer to be out there before I told my children, I didn’t want them to hear mummy’s got cancer from someone else. I kept it to myself until I made sure everything was right at home with my family.’
Julia and her husband ‘came to parenthood late in their lives’, and welcomed their son when she was 40 years old and then their twin daughters through IVF three years later.
Explaining that it broke her heart to consider leaving her children, Julia said: ‘The most painful thing of it all was my children and the thought of leaving them behind. The most joyful thing about motherhood is watching them develop.
Back in a bikini! Earlier this month, Julia wore a bikini for the first time since undergoing a double mastectomy in October, as she holidayed in Mauritius
Candid: Julia recently revealed that the risk of her cancer is returning is higher than average and detailed her experience learning to love her body after a mastectomy
‘They’re at these gorgeous ages where every day is a little landmark. One of my little girls [Zena] is very shy, so watching her overcome something at school, every moment with her when she puts her hand up against her instincts.’
‘My little boy Zeph is a little bit cheeky which we love, Xanthe is a little chatter boy, you think are you ever going to stop talking? You have these gorgeous moments with them when they’re little. This makes a cancer diagnosis – for me – just made it so so sad.’
Julia also revealed that when she told her husband Joe, he was ‘devastated’ but told her that they would get through it and be able to look after the children.
Julia has since undergone her mastectomy and is focusing on her recovery. The end of the documentary revealed she has recently gone on her first family walk since the surgery.
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world and affects more than two MILLION women a year
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. Each year in the UK there are more than 55,000 new cases, and the disease claims the lives of 11,500 women. In the US, it strikes 266,000 each year and kills 40,000. But what causes it and how can it be treated?
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer develops from a cancerous cell which develops in the lining of a duct or lobule in one of the breasts.
When the breast cancer has spread into surrounding breast tissue it is called an ‘invasive’ breast cancer. Some people are diagnosed with ‘carcinoma in situ’, where no cancer cells have grown beyond the duct or lobule.
Most cases develop in women over the age of 50 but younger women are sometimes affected. Breast cancer can develop in men though this is rare.
Staging means how big the cancer is and whether it has spread. Stage 1 is the earliest stage and stage 4 means the cancer has spread to another part of the body.
The cancerous cells are graded from low, which means a slow growth, to high, which is fast growing. High grade cancers are more likely to come back after they have first been treated.
What causes breast cancer?
A cancerous tumour starts from one abnormal cell. The exact reason why a cell becomes cancerous is unclear. It is thought that something damages or alters certain genes in the cell. This makes the cell abnormal and multiply ‘out of control’.
Although breast cancer can develop for no apparent reason, there are some risk factors that can increase the chance of developing breast cancer, such as genetics.
What are the symptoms of breast cancer?
The usual first symptom is a painless lump in the breast, although most breast lumps are not cancerous and are fluid filled cysts, which are benign.
The first place that breast cancer usually spreads to is the lymph nodes in the armpit. If this occurs you will develop a swelling or lump in an armpit.
How is breast cancer diagnosed?
- Initial assessment: A doctor examines the breasts and armpits. They may do tests such as a mammography, a special x-ray of the breast tissue which can indicate the possibility of tumours.
- Biopsy: A biopsy is when a small sample of tissue is removed from a part of the body. The sample is then examined under the microscope to look for abnormal cells. The sample can confirm or rule out cancer.
If you are confirmed to have breast cancer, further tests may be needed to assess if it has spread. For example, blood tests, an ultrasound scan of the liver or a chest x-ray.
How is breast cancer treated?
Treatment options which may be considered include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone treatment. Often a combination of two or more of these treatments are used.
- Surgery: Breast-conserving surgery or the removal of the affected breast depending on the size of the tumour.
- Radiotherapy: A treatment which uses high energy beams of radiation focussed on cancerous tissue. This kills cancer cells, or stops cancer cells from multiplying. It is mainly used in addition to surgery.
- Chemotherapy: A treatment of cancer by using anti-cancer drugs which kill cancer cells, or stop them from multiplying
- Hormone treatments: Some types of breast cancer are affected by the ‘female’ hormone oestrogen, which can stimulate the cancer cells to divide and multiply. Treatments which reduce the level of these hormones, or prevent them from working, are commonly used in people with breast cancer.
How successful is treatment?
The outlook is best in those who are diagnosed when the cancer is still small, and has not spread. Surgical removal of a tumour in an early stage may then give a good chance of cure.
The routine mammography offered to women between the ages of 50 and 70 mean more breast cancers are being diagnosed and treated at an early stage.
For more information visit breastcancercare.org.uk, breastcancernow.org or www.cancerhelp.org.uk