‘I thought I was going to die’—Victoria Derbyshire opens up on her heartbreaking cancer diagnosis

Victoria Derbyshire sits down for an exclusive interview with woman&home

Victoria Derbyshire cover shoot
(Image credit: Future / Dan Kennedy)

Victoria Derbyshire, talks to woman&home about breast cancer, being axed from her TV show, and what matters right now.

Fearless journalist and TV presenter Victoria Derbyshire has a reputation for moving forward despite what life throws at her.

She grew up in a violent household, where, as the eldest of three she was determined that her father and his fearsome rages would never define her or her siblings.

Her no-nonsense approach to being diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2015 inspired many. She never once asked ‘why me?’ instead she made brutally honest video diaries to help her cope and to support the wider cancer community.

When her award-winning morning show on the BBC was axed last year as part of corporation cuts she protested until she realized there would be no change of heart. So, she simply moved forward, channeling herself into new adventures, not least taking part in last year’s I’m A Celebrity because it was her sons’ favorite show.

Victoria Derbyshire interview woman&home

(Image credit: woman&home/Dan Kennedy)

Victoria Derbyshire on her breast cancer diagnosis

"I never checked my breasts." Victoria told woman&home. "One Sunday evening I was getting ready for bed. I was in the bathroom and looked at my right nipple and it looked like it was being pulled and my right breast was lower than the left one which I thought was weird, but I’d sort it tomorrow."

"The doctor referred me for an emergency appointment and I cried. I thought I know I have breast cancer. But I wiped my tears, collected my boys, Ollie and Joe, who were 11 and eight at the time, from the room next door and carried on as normal, making tea and waited for Mark to come home."

"Saying I might die is such a weird thing to say aloud"

She recalls going to a park with her husband Mark and having no idea if the cancer would be treatable, "I thought very early on I was going to die. Mark and I went to a little park and really cried and hugged. Saying I might die is such a weird thing to say aloud." 

"We had no idea then if it was treatable. Once the tears were over, we went into practical mode, telling work, friends, and family."

Victoria Derbyshire woman&home interview

(Image credit: woman&home/Dan Kennedy)

Victoria Derbyshire on losing her hair

"The worst time was losing my hair—worse than losing my breast. I didn’t realize how much I liked my hair until it fell out due to chemotherapy. Your hair is part of your identity. Working on TV I knew it would be obvious I was a cancer patient and I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me. I had a wig made because I didn’t want to go to work with a bald head or a scarf."

"Your hair is part of your identity"

She was gutted when she was told she'd be losing her TV show but going through breast cancer enabled Victoria to put it into perspective. She says, "I was lucky I still had a job in a pandemic and I have come through something where I could have died."

"I love being a journalist. I want to carry on interviewing people, breaking stories, would love to be an agony aunt, and host an intelligent quiz show. I’m A Celebrity made me realize it is ok to have fun doing your job."

Victoria Derbyshire interview woman&home

(Image credit: woman&home/Dan Kennedy)

The full interview with Victoria is featured in the October issue of woman&home, on sale September 2 2021

Miranda McMinn is the editor of woman&home magazine, the brand that prides itself on celebrating, supporting, and inspiring midlife women. Previously she has worked on magazines and newspapers including Marie Claire, Red, The Times, the Observer, and the Daily Mail.

A midlife warrior herself, Miranda has three children and has a passion for country walks, log fires, and winter swimming—she swims all year round in the Hampstead Ladies Pond and heartily recommends it—nothing like a dip in a 4 degree pond to get you ready to face the day!