Entertainment & Arts

Caroline Aherne: Humour helps deal with cancer

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Media captionCaroline Aherne: "The Macmillan nurse...was like an angel"

Comedian Caroline Aherne has spoken about how "brilliant" treatment and a sense of humour have helped her as she has battled cancer three times.

The Royle Family and Mrs Merton star gave a speech at a conference to improve cancer care in Manchester.

She said: "My brother and I were born with cancer of the retina.

"My mum told us that only special people get cancer. I must be very special because I've had it in my lungs and my bladder as well."

She spoke at the launch of the Macmillan Cancer Improvement Partnership (MCIP), a £3.4m scheme to bring together hospitals, GPs, hospices and the city council to co-ordinate cancer care in the city.

Manchester has the highest proportion of premature deaths caused by cancer in the UK, according to a league table of 150 local authorities published last year.

A year ago, research showed that cancer survival rates in the city were 25% below the national average.

Aherne and her brother had eye cancer as a child. She was later treated for bladder cancer and, last month, she revealed that she was recovering from lung cancer.

Image caption Aherne (front, second left) co-wrote and starred in The Royle Family

The 50-year-old star praised her Macmillan nurse, who she said was "like an angel" for the support she had given after the diagnosis.

"When you come out, she answered all your questions that you hadn't been able to ask at the time or you hadn't thought of. It's as worrying for the family when cancer hits as it is for you.

"She was great with my mum - she explained everything. She is an angel and we couldn't have asked for better support. The best bit is they completely understand what you're going through and what your family's going through.

"The other thing that gets you through, I've found - so many funny things happen when you're in there and, looking back, you do have a right laugh with the nurses.

"Although I was on morphine, so maybe it was just me laughing.

"But that's a way I think you can cope with it. If you can separate yourself from it, a sense of humour really, really helps."

'A blessing'

Aherne also revealed that she had been in intensive care and praised the "absolutely brilliant" treatment she received at the Cecilia Centre, which gives chemotherapy to lung cancer patients at Wythenshawe Hospital.

Image caption Aherne's Fast Show roles included the weather forecaster who endlessly exclaimed 'Scorchio!'

"But things aren't where they should be," she went on. "We can't allow Manchester to continue to be the worst place in England for premature deaths from cancer, not to mention all the other appalling statistics we've been hearing.

"That's why the Macmillan Cancer Improvement Partnership has been formed. Everyone in this room wants to make it better, which is why I'm supporting MCIP and asking other people in Manchester who have been affected by cancer to get involved."

People can make their views on cancer care in the city known by filling in cards that have been distributed to GP surgeries and other public places.

"The involvement of patients, carers and families needs to lie at the heart of this hugely ambitious redesign of cancer services," Aherne added. "We've all got the chance here to make a difference and none of us should pass that up."

She concluded by exclaiming: "My wig stayed on!"

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