Published Apr 30, 2022
Finding the support you need during the emotional rollercoaster of a breast cancer journey is vitally important. And TV presenter Julia Bradbury, 51, has managed to do so by sharing her most vulnerable moments with the world.
Bradbury has decided to share her breast cancer story with Julia Bradbury: Breast Cancer & Me, a new documentary that just aired last night on ITV in the UK. In a clip from the film shared by the Daily Mail, Bradbury, a British television personality, showed the intimate moment she looked at her breast implant for the first time in the mirror following surgery and reconstruction.
“I haven’t stood in front of a mirror because I wanted it to be when I felt emotionally ready and when I felt that, physically, I had had some time to heal,” she said in the video.
She then removed her sports bra and took a moment to process what her cancer surviving body looked like before her.
“That’s my new boob,” she said. “Ok well it looks like a boob. It looks like a big lumpy boob.”
She said it would take time to get used to her implant and noted where you could see the silicone beneath her skin.
“Can’t feel that at all, it might come back one day, the sensation, but I can’t feel my fingertips,” she said pointing out where she had lost feeling in her breast due to the implant. “It looks like a plasticine boob at the moment. It’s going to take a bit of getting used to.”
Bradbury’s diagnosis came after a couple mammograms to check on a lump she found in her breast during the summer of 2020. She announced her breast cancer diagnosis in September 2021, but she told her husband, property developer Gerard Cunningham, and their children, son Zephyrus, 10, and 7-year-old twin daughters Xanthe and Zena, before sharing the news with the world.
“Telling your children you have cancer is the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do in your life,” the BBC and ITV presenter said in an emotional interview. “You also don’t quite now how much to tell them to be realistic, and how much do you need to protect them as well. It is a very tricky balance. I don’t think any parent really knows exactly what to do.”
Following a double mastectomy shortly after her diagnosis, Bradbury immediately underwent breast reconstruction.
As for where she’s at now, she does not technically have the all clear yet. In a separate interview, she revealed that she has tiny fragments of cancerous cells in her breast tissue and a genetic predisposition to a higher than average risk of her cancer coming back. Even still, her attitude is positive.
“I’m in the top 5 or 6 percent of women in the country in terms of the likelihood of recurrence,” she said. “That puts me in the ‘moderate risk’ category – higher than the average woman – but, look, it’s about percentages and perspectives.
“The doctors have not found a huge spread of an aggressive cancer. I have lost my breast but been able to have an implant and keep my own nipple. I feel lucky and grateful every single day, and I have to learn to live with this risk, to accept the fragility of life, without it consuming me.”
She did not need chemotherapy or radiation to treat her breast cancer, but Bradbury is now considering the pros and cons of starting a regime of hormone therapies to reduce her likelihood of recurrence.
“They’re potentially life-saving drugs, but they come with significant side effects for some women – joint pain, osteoporosis, trouble with your teeth, risk of uterine cancer and a running jump straight into menopause,” she explained. “I have young children to consider and it’s hard to know what’s best.”
Breast cancer is a common cancer that has been the subject of much research. Many women develop breast cancer every year, but men can develop this cancer too – though it is more rare, in part, due to the simple fact that they have less breast tissue.
Screening for breast cancer is typically done via mammogram, which looks for lumps in the breast tissue and signs of cancer. And while mammograms aren’t perfect, they are still a great way to begin annual screening. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends women begin mammogram screening for breast cancer at age 45 if they are at average risk for breast cancer. Even still, we know that a breast cancer diagnosis can come at any age.
It’s also important to be on top of self breast exams. If you ever feel a lump in your breast, it’s important to be vigilant and speak with your doctor. Voicing your concerns as soon as you have them can lead to earlier cancer detection which, in turn, can lead to better outcomes.
There are many treatment options for people with breast cancer, but treatment depends greatly on the specifics of each case. Identifying these specifics means looking into whether the cancerous cells have certain receptors. These receptors – the estrogen receptor, the progesterone receptor and the HER2 receptor – can help identify the unique features of the cancer and help personalize treatment.
“These receptors, I like to imagine them like little hands on the outside of the cell, they can grab hold of what we call ligands, and these ligands are essentially the hormones that may be circulating in the bloodstream that can then be pulled into this cancer cell and used as a fertilizer, as growth support for the cells,” Dr. Elizabeth Comen, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, told SurvivorNet in a previous interview.
One example of a type of ligand that can stimulate a cancer cell is the hormone estrogen, hence why an estrogen receptor positive breast cancer will grow when stimulated by estrogen. For these cases, your doctor may offer treatment that specifically targets the estrogen receptor. But for HER2 positive breast cancers, therapies that uniquely target the HER2 receptor may be the most beneficial.
During a cancer battle, it’s important to know that you are not alone. There’s a community out there for you to be vulnerable with, if you’d like, and connecting with people as you battle the disease can make a world of difference.
Kate Hervey is another cancer warrior, like Bradbury, who found support after sharing her cancer journey. A young college girl, she was shocked to be diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare type of cancer that tends to form near large joints in young adults, after seeing her doctor for tenderness and lumps in one of her legs.
Hervey, a nursing student at Michigan State, had to handle her cancer battle during the COVID-19 pandemic and scale back on her social activities as a high-risk patient. That’s when she turned to TikTok as a creative outlet, and inspired thousands.
“One thing that was nice about TikTok that I loved and why I started posting more and more videos is how many people I was able to meet through TikTok and social media that are going through the same things,” she says. “I still text with this one girl who is 22. If I’m having a hard time, I will text her because she will understand. As much as my family and friends are supportive, it’s hard to vent to someone who doesn’t know what it’s really like.”
Hervey is now cancer-free, and says she couldn’t have done it without the love and support of her TikTok followers.
“I feel like I’ve made an impact on other people and they have made an impact on me through TikTok, which is crazy to say. I can help people go through what I’ve been going through as well.” She has graciously agreed to allow SurvivorNet to use her content in order to help our community.
So while sharing your story to a vast TikTok audience or an entire city might not be your thing, it’s important to consider opening up to others during your cancer battle. Even if it’s with a smaller group, you never know how much the support can help you – or help those you share with – unless you try.