Health

Victoria Derbyshire's breast cancer treatment ends

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Media captionVictoria Derbyshire was unable to hold back the tears after completing her treatment

BBC journalist Victoria Derbyshire has completed six weeks of radiotherapy, her last major treatment for breast cancer. She reflects on this final stage, and looks to the future.

"I'm sure this is completely normal and everyone who's ever had a cancer diagnosis will think this - I am thinking about what if this cancer comes back," Derbyshire explains, trying to compose herself.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of July 2015, and has been filming diaries to help demystify the treatment.

In this latest diary, recorded across April and May, she undergoes 30 doses of radiotherapy in six weeks.

Half way through the treatment, she experiences what she describes as an "uncharacteristic wobble".

"Obviously I never want [the cancer to reoccur], I never want to go through chemotherapy again ever, I just do not want it to come back... I just want this to have been a blip and get on with my life, my kids' life, my partner's life, my family's future," she adds.

As well as having chemotherapy from November 2015 to February this year, the radiotherapy treatment was recommended to her after her mastectomy seven months earlier. Doctors warned that despite the surgery, some breast cancer cells may still remain.

Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays to destroy these cancerous cells, by targeting the specific region of the body that requires treatment.

"You lie on a bed, you put your arms up, you've taken your top layer of clothing off and there is a large disc above you which angles," Derbyshire says, explaining the process.

"The radiation beams come from there and target the right hand side of me, the right breast.

"But you can't see the beams, they don't shoot out from this large piece of machinery, it's not like Star Wars," she adds.

The treatment is not available at every hospital, meaning Derbyshire had to cover more than 1,000 miles over the six-week period, travelling to St Luke's Cancer Centre at the Royal Surrey NHS County Hospital.

"Clearly it is an issue for hundreds and hundreds of patients, you can't always get the bespoke treatment that you need in your local NHS hospital," she says.


Find Out More

The Victoria Derbyshire programme is broadcast on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News channel.

Watch Victoria Derbyshire's first four breast cancer diaries here.


Over a month into recording her latest diary, and Derbyshire - with a smile on her face - documents signs that her body is beginning to recover from previous rounds of treatment.

As she points the camera towards her eyes, she explains: "Twelve weeks after chemotherapy I'd lost all my eyelashes and most of my eyebrows... [now] they're back. It's true, they do come back."

She also shows the camera the scar caused by her mastectomy last September, in the hope of alleviating other people's fears about what the skin will look like once they have had a breast removed.

"I hope you'll agree, that scar is minimal and that is because the consultants and the NHS are so brilliant," she says.

'I feel liberated'

One week later, and there is cause for more celebration, as Derbyshire leaves the hospital.

"It's Wednesday 25 May and I'm done - I'm done. That was my last radiotherapy session. Thirty sessions - five a week for the last six weeks - and it's finished. Wow, I can't believe it," Derbyshire says, unable to hold back the tears.

"Gosh, I'm so happy. Wow. I feel elated. I feel liberated. There are so many people I want to thank. And most of them work for the NHS."

Derbyshire will still have to take the drug tamoxifen daily for the next five to 10 years in order to try and stop the breast cancer from coming back - which can lead to side effects including hot flushes, feeling dizzy, headaches, leg cramps, joint pain, weight gain and changes in mood and concentration.

Image caption Derbyshire will need to take the drug tamoxifen for the next five to 10 years

But in terms of major treatment, Derbyshire hopes "that is it... if all goes according to plan".

"On 31 July 2015 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. One mastectomy, six sessions of chemotherapy, 30 doses of radiotherapy later, I feel like this could be a fresh start.

"And I know not everybody gets that opportunity. I am completely aware of that and so I am very grateful, exceptionally grateful.

"I want to say to you, if you are going through cancer treatment or you are about to go through cancer treatment: 'I'm sending you all my love and strength. Take it, have it. You can have it. Please do. And just keep going.'"

And as for her own future: "It's time to crack on with the rest of my life," she says.

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