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How Rachael Bland bravely told the story of her fatal cancer

Rachael Bland’s podcast examined death, pain, relationships and everyday life while suffering from cancer (Claire Wood/PA)
Rachael Bland’s podcast examined death, pain, relationships and everyday life while suffering from cancer (Claire Wood/PA)

Rachael Bland told the story of her battle with cancer in a frank and humorous podcast, documenting her life from finding a lump to being told she only had days left.

You, Me And The Big C, featuring friends Deborah James and Lauren Mahon sharing their experiences of cancer, now occupies the top spot of the UK podcast charts.

Bland, 40-year-old BBC Radio 5 Live presenter and mother-of-one, battled breast cancer for two years.

Her positive BBC podcast came with the warning “contains adult humour”, and explored the disease with frank wit.

She documented each stage of the disease’s progress, which was first diagnosed in November 2016, and declared incurable in May of this year.

In a tweet posted on Monday, the broadcaster wrote: “I’m told I’ve only got days. It’s very surreal.”

Her upbeat podcast examines death, pain, relationships and everyday life while suffering from cancer.

In an early episode Bland told the story of her discovering she had cancer, after breastfeeding her young boy Freddie who she had with husband Steve.

She said: “I had pain first. I had this weird soreness. It was kind of inside my armpit. It went away. It was just around the time I was breastfeeding.

“But because of that I was having a little bit of a feel. When I found it, I was like: ‘How did I miss this?’

“It was the size of a walnut.”

What followed were months of treatment for Bland, creator of the blog Big C Little Me, and the start of her gallows humour “death jokes”.

Guests on the podcast, including actor Greg Wise talking about death, discussed different aspects of living with cancer.

In May she was told that her cancer had metastasised, spreading to her lymph nodes, skin, and liver.

During one podcast discussing her lungs being drained, Bland frankly said she feared the worst, saying: “I’m all right. I’m surviving. Doctors were basically sending me home to die.

“I was sent home in an ambulance.”

In order to limit the progress of cancer in her liver, Bland gave up alcohol, but still saw humour in the situation as the pain and disease intensified.

“If at any time you want to just drown in a vat of wine, now is the time,” she said on the podcast, adding in a later episode: “It’s my least favourite organ, that liver.”

Discussing the prospect of death on the podcast, Bland said that her main wish was not to complete a “bucket list”, but for time in the garden with her husband and son.

The presenter said that even in these moments there was a fear that time was running out, and she would leave her loved ones behind.

She said: “Sometimes there is a little voice that says: ‘Are you enjoying the sun? I don’t think you’ve got another winter in you.’”

Her last podcast was on the subject of pain, with Bland admitting she had become “quite the cocktail of drugs” in order to manage the ravages of cancer.

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