By Emma Dooney
Sarah Harding has opened up about her battle with Stage 4 breast cancer, in the hope that it will encourage women to attend their medical checks during the pandemic.
The Girls Aloud star shared the tragic news that her illness has drastically advanced in her memoir, Hear Me Out, revealing that she may only have a few months left to live. In an exclusive interview with the Times this week, Sarah explained why she decided to share her experience with the public.
“Writing about my cancer, I found myself thinking, ‘Do I want everyone to know this?’” she revealed.
However, after putting off a doctor’s visit at the beginning of the pandemic when she first showed symptoms, she is now desperate to raise awareness of the importance of screenings. The attendance rates of these potentially live-saving check-ups plummeted during the lockdown, with nearly one million women having missed their breast cancer checks due to the pandemic by October 2020.
“I kept thinking that if there was a chance just one person who read my story decided to get checked and was treated in time, then it was worth it,” she said.
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“In December my doctor told me that the upcoming Christmas would probably be my last,” she wrote in an extract of the book, which is due to hit shelves on March 18.
Sarah, who celebrated her 39th birthday in November, first announced her breast cancer diagnosis to the public last August.
“There’s no easy way to say this and actually it doesn’t even feel real writing this, but here goes. Earlier this year I was diagnosed with breast cancer and a couple of weeks ago I received the devastating news that the cancer has advanced to other parts of my body,” she told her 309k followers. “I’m currently undergoing weekly chemotherapy sessions and I am fighting as hard as I possibly can.”
The following month, Sarah was approached by a major publisher to write her own memoir - a project which she embraced with open arms.
“It came at such a good time for me as it’s given me something fun and positive to focus on while I’ve been stuck at home in between trips to the hospital for treatment,” she said.
“I’ve nearly finished it now and this week Mum and I have been looking through old photos choosing which ones to include. It’ll be out after Christmas and I’m really proud of it. I hope you’ll like it.” She also gave fans a glimpse into the book’s pictures, posting one of her as a young child asleep.
A photo posted by on
In February, she revealed the exciting news that she has completed the book, which she titled after one of her favorite Girls Aloud songs, “Hear Me Out.” “I’ve always really loved it,” she said. “The lyrics have always meant a lot to me.” The powerful ballad, written by Sarah for the band’s second studio album, tells the story of finding one’s inner strength after a bad breakup.
Sarah had first realized something could be wrong over lockdown when she noticed irritation on her breast. “At first I thought it was just a cyst,” she wrote in an extract of Hear Me Out. She attributed it to her rigorous guitar playing, assuming the strap had damaged the area around her breast.
However, her symptoms continued to worsen, to the point she became overwhelmed by pain. “It got so bad that I couldn’t sleep in a bed anymore. I slept on the sofa, popping painkillers like they were Smarties.”
When she finally built up the courage to be examined by a doctor, she was told she needed to have an MRI as soon as possible. The results of the scan confirmed her worst fears - it wasn’t just a cyst.
“I just remember thinking: well, that’s it, game over,” she wrote. “My head was spinning. How was I going to process this news? How was I going to get by with the knowledge that I was fighting for my life?”
Sarah began treatment shortly after, which entailed both chemotherapy and a mastectomy. She was also placed in a medically-induced coma for two weeks after she was fitted with a catheter that allowed chemotherapy drugs to be delivered directly into her bloodstream. This addition only caused other health issues though, including the development of a deadly swelling in her neck and chest, and needed urgent removal.
Sarah recalls waking up from the coma and seeing her mother, who has been by her side throughout this process. “God knows what Mum must have been feeling, knowing I might not come back,” she wrote.
Now in the final stages of cancer, Sarah is trying to find little pleasures in each day. She lists sleeping in, watching Family Guy, cooking for her mother, and enjoying the odd glass of wine as her go-to comforts during this incredibly difficult time.
“I’m at a stage now where I don’t know how many months I have left. Who knows, maybe I’ll surprise everyone, but that’s how I’m looking at things.”
Emma is a news writer for woman&home and My Imperfect Life. She covers the Royal Family and the entertainment world, as well as the occasional health or lifestyle story. When she's not reporting on the British monarchy and A-list celebs, you can find her whipping up vegan treats and running the roads to cheesy '90s pop music...but not at the same time, obviously.
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