Broadcaster Victoria Derbyshire is, quite simply, very happy to be alive.
The 48-year-old was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, and after treatment including a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy – which were all documented with sometimes brutal honesty in a series of video diaries watched by an amazing 17 million people so far – there’s no evidence of active cancer in her body.
So the warm, say-it-as-it-is northern lass has resumed ‘life as normal’ with her partner Mark Sandell, and two young sons, Oliver and Joe, working full-time on her BBC Two news and current affairs programme.
And she’s also managed to find the time to record her cancer nightmare in her new book, based on her own diaries, called Dear Cancer, Love Victoria.
Like most people, the journalist has no idea why she developed cancer, and points out: “There are so many environmental factors – smoking, drinking, being on the pill for years, general lifestyle – it could be all of those things, some of them, none of them.”
But the best way to prevent cancer – or, indeed, stop it recurring – is to look after yourself. These are Victoria’s wellbeing tips:
1. Healthy eating, including white meat rather than red
“I’ve always eaten healthily – things like prawns, turkey curry, salads, white meat like turkey and chicken, cottage cheese etc.
“Obviously when I’m watching Strictly on a Saturday night with my boys and Mark, we have a load of chocolate, because that’s what you do in the winter months.”
Victoria still drinks alcohol, but stopped smoking about three years ago. She gave up dairy for a short time because her cancer was oestrogen positive, but says: “When I told my consultant, he raised his eyebrows and said there was no evidence cutting out dairy has any impact, so I just started having normal milk in my tea again.
“If there was evidence showing that it had an impact or helped protect you in some way, I’d carry on cutting it out, but I need my evidence and there is none.”
Victoria’s sister’s partner Alexis gave her some healthy juice recipes after she was diagnosed with cancer, but Victoria says: “I’ve still got the recipes and the juicer, but I don’t use them now – which is an illustration of how I’ve progressed, I think.”
2. Plenty of sleep
“It’s hugely important to everybody – children, teenagers, adults. Get a decent night’s sleep.”
3. Me time
Victoria recommends making an effort to get some peaceful time on your own every day to calm your mind.
“Have some time on your own, in silence, either in the house on your own or going for a walk on your own, with no phone, no radio, no distractions, no nothing.
“Even just an hour, just to calm your mind. I find I love it – when my boys and my partner go to West Ham every other Saturday to watch their team, I have the house to myself. Our dog Gracie, who I love, is with me, and that peace is just brilliant for my mind.”
4. Regular exercise
Victoria says she now does more exercise than she did before she got cancer, and has two gym sessions a week with a personal trainer to do strength work on her core, arms and legs.
She explains: “The reason for that is a) it contributes to preventing reoccurrence, and b) I now take a Tamoxifen tablet every day, and one of the side-effects is quite severe joint pain, which can make you feel like an old woman.
“I’ve found that going to the gym helps alleviate that pain.”
While she’s not necessarily urging everyone to get down to their local gym, she stresses: “Do something, if you can, every day, even if it’s only a dog walk, or running up the stairs at work rather than getting the lift.”
5. Drink plenty of water
Victoria says she drinks a lot of water herself, although she insists it’s still not enough, and she advises: “Drink loads and loads and loads of water. Not only is it good for insides, it’s great for your skin.”
Dear Cancer, Love Victoria is published by Trapeze, £18.99. Victoria Derbyshire is attending a charity book launch on October 8 at The Other Palace in London. All proceeds go to YouCan,a charity which gives emotional support to children and young people with cancer.