“One in two people will be affected by cancer. It’s a terrifying statistic, and everyone will now know someone, or have a family member, who has lost their fight,” says Jodie Kidd. But to the 39-year-old, this is more than a statistic, it is her reality.
Jodie, who rose to international fame as a model aged 15 and has since appeared on Top Gear and Strictly Come Dancing, lost her sister-in-law Sandy, aged just 50, to pancreatic cancer in February.
Jodie’s loss has prompted her to raise awareness about the importance of talking about cancer and spending time with terminal cancer patients. “Every second I miss Sandy and I love her. If I can do something and help someone, and do it for her and for my love for her, then that makes it all worth it,” she explains.
The mother-of-one is candid, saying “losing someone that I absolutely loved and adored to cancer” was a “horrific ordeal”.
Jodie and Sandy were close “all of my life, and all of hers”. Even though they were related by marriage, Jodie explains “she was like my sister”.
“She got me into modelling, she was very much beside me in all my early modelling days. She was very, very, very close family.”
Sandy was living in Australia with Jodie’s brother Darcy when she received the terminal diagnosis. The distance, Darcy “being very protective”, and Sandy “not hiding it, but [trying to] deal with the family and loved ones in the right way”, meant the diagnosis was not fully talked about.
“We didn’t really talk about it, we didn’t really sit down and go, ‘Right, this is happening’. It was, ‘We’re going to beat it, we’re not going to talk about it, and it just is not going to happen’,” Jodie recalls. “‘We are going to be the ones to beat it’.”
Jodie admits that denial meant she did not spend as much time with Sandy as she could have: “When we realised it was happening, it was almost too late”, and recalls the moment the family realised Sandy’s cancer really was terminal: “We just went, ‘We’re not winning this, and she’s not winning this’.”
“Towards the end, the person suffering, it’s very difficult to get them out of hospital. They are incredibly ill and tired and sometimes it’s too late to go and do those things that you should have done,” Jodie acknowledges. “We should have shared more precious moments… seen family members or gone and done things and walked on the beach. It is so important to do that.”
Jodie’s experience has inspired her to lend her voice to the #TimeOfMyLife campaign, from a coalition of cancer charities, which hopes to emphasise the importance of giving terminal cancer patients the chance to spend more time with their loved ones, both through access to cancer treatments, and increased communication.
Jodie is particularly passionate about the importance of talking following a diagnosis. She believes “it is really important for people to understand they can get access to treatments that will allow them to have quality time, [and] that everyone talks” instead of, like her family in some ways, taking the “stiff upper lip [approach] that, ‘This is not going to happen’.”
“When you talk about cancer, people don’t really know what to do or say, or they feel a bit awkward, or as if they’re treading on eggshells,” adds Jodie. “I just want people to talk and to know that there are amazing charities out there that can support you, there are amazing treatments that you can get, science is moving very quickly.
“Just know that you are not alone.”