Sarah Beeny, Olivia Newton-John and celebs who have shared their breast cancer story

·Lifestyle Writer, Yahoo Life UK
·16-min read
Sarah Beeny talks about breast cancer. (PA Images)
Sarah Beeny and other celebrities have inspired many by going public with their breast cancer. (PA Images)

Sarah Beeny is the latest celebrity to open about up about having breast cancer.

The presenter of TV shows including Help! My House Is Falling Down and Sarah Beeny’s New Life In The Country, 50, has shared that she is being treated for the condition.

In an interview with The Telegraph, she recalled the moment she was first diagnosed three weeks ago. "The nurse was so sweet and they were really nice to me but I thought, 'You don't understand. I have waited 40 years to hear those words.' I knew I was going to hear it one day."

Beeny's mother died from breast cancer at 39-years-old, when she herself was just 10.

She admitted she had "a little bit of a breakdown" when being told the news in a hospital consultation room.

Read more: How to check for breast cancer symptoms and detect the condition early

The broadcaster found out she had the disease after finding a lump in her breast. With her initial mammogram not showing anything unusual, but her biopsy going on to confirm it was cancer, Beeny has urged women to check their breasts regularly and trust their instincts

"Go for the mammogram. And always go for a second check-up if you can still feel a lump. Keep on going until you get a biopsy. Be vigilant," she told the publication.

She began chemotherapy on Friday and will have a mastectomy and radiotherapy in the New Year.

Beeny also said she decided to cut off her hair rather than wait for it fall out during chemo, which her husband Graham Smith, and sons Billy, 18, Charlie, 16, Rafferty, 14, and Laurie, 12 helped her do over the weekend.

"To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend getting four teenage boys to cut off your hair,” she said, joking about how they said she looked like Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones.

"I mean, she’s beautiful so I was sort of flattered, but my hair is now in some places about a centimetre long and in some places it’s an inch long," she added. While there was laughter during the moment, that didn't stop it being a tough decision to make.

“I was really, really sad before. I think because losing your hair is so real: before that, you can sort of pretend it’s not happening," Beeny explained.

Documenting the process on Instagram, with pictures of her sons snipping away and her shorter hair, she announced she plans to donate it to a charity that provides free wigs to children and young people who have lost theirs through cancer treatment and other conditions.

"A little pile of not very good condition hair on it’s way to @officiallittleprincesstrust - my trainee hairdressers cut off my hair on Friday night - getting one step ahead after first chemo treatment for breast cancer on Friday - the exclusive club you’d rather not be a member of!" her caption reads.

The Little Princess Trust's account responded, "Wow! What a wonderful hair donation, thank you so much for your support. Everyone here at LPT are wishing you and your family the best of luck."

Meanwhile, others flooded the comments with support. "I’m so incredibly sorry to read this. You are a strong beautiful woman, and you can overcome anything. Best of luck with the chemo, sending lots of love to you all" wrote one fan, while another said, "I’ve been in the club and come out the other side 5 years clear you have got this."

The presenter, who first graced our screens with Property Ladder, also told The Telegraph she will continue with a new series for Channel 4 and write a book in the autumn as planned.

Beeny discussed what is helping to keep her going, including what she learnt from the loss of her mother. "I guess resilience is the main thing it taught me," she said, later explaining that she feels lucky to have been diagnosed with a treatable cancer and that she lives in a family where they all talk [openly about things].

Despite having a brief moment where she thought she wouldn't tell anyone to avoid it becoming real, she said, "But sometimes you have to find something inside yourself; you have to focus and centre to find your inner strength, and say, ‘Come on!’ We all have our own coping mechanisms, don’t we, and mine is to kind of go into myself a bit and then come out.”

Olivia Newton-John

Olivia Newton-John. (Getty Images)
The late Olivia Newton-John lived with cancer for three decades. (Getty Images)

Olivia Newton-John, who died at the age of 73 earlier this month on 8 August after living with breast cancer for nearly 30 years, is also among a host of celebrities who have bravely opened about the condition.

The British-born, Australia-raised star, loved for her role as Sandy in Grease, was first diagnosed with the disease in 1992, with it returning in her shoulder in 2013 and in her spine in 2017.

"When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 I had my moment of fear and panic. But I had to make a decision that I was going to be OK, because I had a young daughter to raise," she told You magazine last year.

With Chloe Rose Lattanzi being just six then, and 36 now, Newton-John achieved her goal.

"She is now in her 30s and I am still here, so I am very lucky," she added at the time. "I know not everyone is as fortunate as I have been, but the mind is an extremely important part of your healing."

Read more: Skin cancer signs and symptoms: From melanoma to carcinoma

The singer and actor, who underwent a partial mastectomy, chemotherapy and breast reconstruction launched the Olivia Newton-John Foundation with husband John Easterling to help with cancer research and plant-based medicine in 2020.

"I am not trying to replace anything. I just want to find out if we can heal cancer in a gentler way that will boost the immune system – rather than destroy it," she explained.

Newton-John has also demonstrated a more positive attitude to cancer over the years, and her reluctance to join in on the discourse that makes it sound like a 'battle' or a 'fight'.

"I don’t think of myself as sick with cancer,” she told The Guardian in 2020. “I choose not to see it as a fight either because I don’t like war. I don’t like fighting wherever it is – whether it’s outside or an actual war inside my body. I choose not to see it that way. I want to get my body healthy and back in balance. Part of that is your mental attitude to it."

When Easterling announcing her peaceful death surrounded by family and friends at her Ranch in Southern California, he added, "Her healing inspiration and pioneering experience with plant medicine continues with the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, dedicated to researching plant medicine and cancer."

Samantha Womack

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 29: Samantha Womack arrives at the press night performance of
Samantha Womack, photographed in London in June 2021, has gone public with her own breast cancer battle. (Getty Images )

Newton-John's death compelled Samantha Womack, best known for her role as Ronnie Mitchell in Eastenders, to reveal she has breast cancer herself.

The actor, 49, recalled meeting the star, sharing an old photo on Twitter of them together with Chloe when she was a child.

"This was the most magical of evenings. Olivia and Chloe had come to see Grease in London and we had dinner together afterwards. I was so excited and in awe, she was my childhood," Womack captioned the post. "I now start my own battle with this disease and am left feeling deeply moved," she added.

Carol McGiffin

Carol McGiffin attends The Best Heroes Awards 2019 at The Bloomsbury Hotel on October 15, 2019 in London, England.  (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)
Carol McGiffin attends The Best Heroes Awards at The Bloomsbury Hotel in London, October 2019. (Getty Images)

Loose Women star Carol McGiffin, 62, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in 2014. While her treatment was successful (including a mastectomy and chemotherapy) and she passed the five-year remission milestone in 2019, her disease wasn't suitable for the types of drugs which can help prevent it from returning.

“I am constantly aware and fearful of secondary cancers that might not be obvious early on but can never be cured. I monitor my health religiously and attend checks all the time," she has said since, as a Make 2nds Count ambassador.

"But I’m concerned at the lack of awareness of secondary breast cancer and of this brilliant charity which does so much to help women who are suffering.”

Speaking on Yahoo UK's podcast White Wine Question Time with Kate Thornton in March 2022, she opened up about her experience of cancer, also having lost her mum and sister to the disease.

"It was absolutely hideous, that kind of chemotherapy. There's lots of different levels as well. The one I had was properly toxic. It was awful. It was terrible," she said. "You kind of you realise what your levels are, I could tolerate that. And I could put up with it because I knew what it was doing."

Showing her strength, she added, "The treatment makes you feel so sick, it's hard to believe that that it's actually making you better. But it does, apparently. So I just thought: 'I'll just get through this'."

Julia Bradbury

Julia Bradbury attends Matthew Bourne's
Julia Bradbury attends Matthew Bourne's The Car Man show premiere at Royal Albert Hall in London, June 2022. (Getty Images)

TV presenter Julia Bradbury, 52, recently shared her breast cancer journey in her documentary Breast Cancer And Me, from diagnosis (announced in 2021) to surgery, including the difficult moment she got her mastectomy.

"It genuinely is something that stays with you forever," she told the Loose Women panel earlier this year.

Commenting on the reaction to the show, she explained, "I think generally people were quite surprised at how vulnerable I appeared to be. I was happy to show that side.

"Kelly Close [director] wanted it to be personal, touching and emotional. We don’t talk a lot about the emotional impact of having cancer. It’s a big thing psychologically to deal with.

"It genuinely is something that stays with you forever. There is a chance of recurrence, whether that's in five years, or 50 years."

Read more: Julia Bradbury jokes about her new 'pneumatic boob' following breast cancer surgery

She said she "found telling people quite hard" because of their reaction and the "sadness in their eyes", but that telling her children, Zephyr Cunningham, now 11, and twins Xanthe and Zena Cunningham, seven, was the hardest, with her originally considering not telling them at all.

But, she added, "I thought that was an impossibility because of what I do. That’s why I controlled the story - I knew it would come out."

While she felt "guilt" for feeling like her diagnosis also affected her loved ones' lives, seeing the positive side, she said, "There is always someone who has had it much harder than you. You have to frame your own position and think of others."

Sarah Harding

Sarah Harding attends the National Television Awards 2018 at The O2 Arena on January 23, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Joe Maher/FilmMagic)
Sarah Harding attends the National Television Awards at The O2 Arena in London, January 2018. (FilmMagic)

Girls Aloud star Sarah Harding died in September 2021 at the age of 39 after suffering from breast cancer.

Harding first announced she had the disease in August 2020 on her Instagram. With a picture of her in hospital wearing a gown, her caption read in part, "I feel now is the right time to share what’s been going on. 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. I’m currently undergoing weekly chemotherapy sessions and I am fighting as hard as I possibly can.

"I understand this might be shocking to read on social media and that really isn’t my intention. But last week it was mentioned online that I had been seen in hospital, so I feel now is the time to let people know what’s going on and this is the best way I can think of to do so.

"My amazing mum, family and close friends are helping me through this, and I want to say a thank you to the wonderful NHS doctors and nurses who have been and continue to be heroes."

Read more: Deborah Meaden says make-up artist spotted sign of skin cancer

In an extract from her memoir Hear Me Out, which was published in The Times in March 2021, she said, “In December my doctor told me that the upcoming Christmas would probably be my last.

“I don’t want an exact prognosis. I don’t know why anyone would want that. Comfort and being as pain-free as possible is what’s important to me now.”

Harding said publicly revealing her diagnosis was “scary” but was also “the right thing to do”.

Kylie Minogue

Kylie Minogue attends the first performance of ABBA
Kylie Minogue attends the first performance of ABBA Voyage at ABBA Arena in London, May 2022. (Photo by (Getty Images)

Kylie Minogue, 54, said that after her doctor missed her breast cancer in 2005, but she decided to go back a few weeks later for a second opinion, resulting in her receiving a diagnosis and a lumpectomy to remove the small tumour, as well as chemo.

“I was misdiagnosed initially," she told Ellen Degeneres. "So my message to all of you and everyone at home is, because someone is in a white coat and using big medical instruments doesn’t necessarily mean they are right.”

While she didn't reveal many details, she said it happened before her 2005 Showgirl concert tour. “If you have any doubt, go back again."

Jennifer Saunders

Jennifer Saunders during the filming for the Graham Norton Show at BBC Studioworks 6 Television Centre, Wood Lane, London, to be aired on BBC One on Friday evening. (Photo by Isabel Infantes/PA Images via Getty Images)
Jennifer Saunders appears on BBC's The Graham Norton Show in January 2020. (Getty Images)

Comedian Jennifer Saunders, 63, was diagnosed with the disease at 51.

"The cancer was caught early enough, and I had doctors I trusted,’ she told SAGA magazine. "I just had to make it easy for the doctors to do what they had to do, by doing what they told me and behaving myself."

Aside form the treatment, the worst part for her was going into menopause, brought on by taking the drug tamoxifen.

‘I did crash into menopause a bit. It was quite brutal, especially because no one had warned me. Doctors deal with their own specialty and if you face cancer, they deal with the cancer. But if you go on tamoxifen it stops you having any oestrogen and I don’t think they quite understand how that mentally affects you. You don’t quite know what you should feel like, so you think, “Is this depression? I don’t know. I just feel angry”.’

Read more: Carol Vorderman says menopause made her 'feel suicidal' but HRT really helped

Dame Maggie Smith

Dame Maggie Smith attends Wimbledon Championships Tennis Tournament at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 10, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
Dame Maggie Smith attends Wimbledon Championships Tennis Tournament at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London, on July 2021. (Getty Images)

Dame Maggie Smith, now 87, was diagnosed with breast cancer at 74 while filming for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, persisting through despite having chemotherapy.

“I was hairless,” she told The Telegraph. “I had no problem getting the wig on. I was like a boiled egg.” She went on to film the last in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, being given the all clear in 2009.

Some people say you have to fight cancer. But it was fighting me," she explained, years after her diagnosis. “The cure was worse than the disease, and it left me totally exhausted and depressed.” But she came back stronger, with more recent roles including Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey.

Sharon Osbourne

Sharon Osbourne arrives at the Elton John AIDS Foundation's 30th Annual Academy Awards Viewing Party on March 27, 2022 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/FilmMagic)
Sharon Osbourne at the Elton John AIDS Foundation's 30th Annual Academy Awards Viewing Party in West Hollywood, 2022. (Getty Images)

Sharon Osbourne, 69, underwent a double mastectomy after she discovered she had a gene that increased her chances of having breast cancer.

Osbourne, who had already suffered from colon cancer when filming the reality show The Osbournes with husband Ozzy, had the surgery as a preventative measure.

"As soon as I found out I had the breast cancer gene, I thought, 'The odds are not in my favour,'" she told Hello! magazine in 2012. "I've had cancer before and I didn't want to live under that cloud. I decided to just take everything off, and had a double mastectomy."

The decision to have the double surgery, which lasted 12 hours, was a "no brainer" for Osbourne, who didn't want to "live the rest of my life with that shadow hanging over me" and instead wanted to "be around for a long time and be a grandmother for Pearl", who had recently been born, now 10.

Cynthia Nixon

Cynthia Nixon attends
Cynthia Nixon attends The Gilded Age FYC screening at the Whitby Hotel in New York, May 2022. (Getty Images)

Because her mother had breast cancer when she was a child, Cynthia Nixon, 56, underwent annual screenings form the age of 35. In 2006 she was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer.

She said her doctor had told her at the time, "You know I wouldn’t have thought anything of this. It is so small, except it wasn’t there on any of your previous mammograms'."

"I think that speaks volumes of how important it is to get mammograms, how important it is to get them regularly and how important it is to get them young," she also told Cure Today in 2011, because of the close-call. "If I had started when I was 40, maybe they wouldn’t have caught it."

Read more: UK's four most common cancer types – the signs and symptoms to be aware of

She had a lumpectomy immediately. "I was in a play at the time, and my doctor, anaesthesiologist and all the people involved in the procedures and operation did an amazing job and went far and beyond for me," she recalled.

"I didn’t want people to know I had the operation because I was in the play, and I thought it would be very distracting for audience members. The doctors did my procedure on a Sunday so I wouldn’t have to miss any performances. I healed from that."

While she didn't need chemo, she had about six and a half weeks of radiation, and then went on tamoxifen.

She also had a very pragmatic attitude to her cancer. ‘I’ve learned that if you catch breast cancer early, the chances are overwhelmingly good that you’ll be cured," she told Shape magazine. "So my attitude, which very much mirrored my mother’s, was this wasn’t a big deal."

For advice or to someone to speak to about cancer, you can call Macmillan free on 0808 239 0843, seven days a week, 8am-8pm.

Watch: Know your body: How to check for signs and symptoms of breast cancer