'MY INSPIRATION' Rachael Bland, you have changed how we ALL talk about cancer – it’s your legacy, and Freddie will be so proud

The Sun's Deborah James shares a letter she wrote to BBC newsreader Rachael Bland after learning her of friend's death

06 September 2018 - 08:37

SHE changed the conversation around cancer, leaving an inspirational legacy.

BBC newsreader Rachael Bland has died at the age of 40 - two years after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

The mum-of-one was the brainchild of the inspirational podcast You, Me And The Big C, which she co-hosted with her best pals and fellow cancer patients, The Sun's Deborah James, 36, and Lauren Mahon, 32.

After Rachael revealed she had "just days to live" on Monday, the podcast soared to the top of the download charts.

The trio's aim was to put the CAN in cancer, to give a brutally honest view of what life with cancer is really like.

Here, Deborah shares a heartbreaking letter to Rachael, which she wrote in the early hours of this morning, after learning her bestie had passed away...

My darling Rachael,

It’s 6am and I’m writing this in floods of tears.

Why? Because normally when it’s 6am I text you. I text you to say I think my cancer has gone bonkers and I’m dying.

I tell you I can’t breathe. I ask you if you’ve experienced similar pains. I tell you I’m scared.

 She was the brainchild of the You, Me And The Big C podcast, which she co-hosted with The Sun's Deborah James and Lauren Mahon. Here, Deborah shares a letter she wrote to Rachael
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She was the brainchild of the You, Me And The Big C podcast, which she co-hosted with The Sun's Deborah James and Lauren Mahon. Here, Deborah shares a letter she wrote to Rachael

You would tell me not to be silly - and that “you know when you are dying”.

All the while, you knew you were dying. Yet you were able to listen to me with intense sympathy, most likely wishing you too had “options”.

Today, instead of your morning message about our chart position or latest death joke, I got a text I knew was coming.

It broke my heart to read it, to see in black and white that you're really gone.

 Rachael's husband Steve shared the news on her social media today
Twitter
Rachael's husband Steve shared the news on her social media today

All I want to do is call you, you would know how I'm feeling. I can't believe it's real.

You were the marathon running broadcaster, I was the marathon running veggie.

We didn't tick any of those cancer risk boxes, yet we were diagnosed within weeks of each other.

I know leaving Freddie was the scariest thing about all this for you...he will always know how much you love him

I was in a dark place, struggling to come to terms with how I could have cancer, at just 35. Fear had taken over, fear for me, my two babies, my family.

And then you reached out to me.

We were both trying to make sense of the sh*t hand we had been dealt.

You knew what I was going through, like no one else. You always had the right thing to say.

We were both grateful that those closest to us didn't understand how we felt.

But we desperately needed to find strength from somewhere. It turned out to be in each other, and the countless others going through this too - the community we became a part of.

We pledged to turn the crap into a positive, it became our coping strategy. Now, it's your legacy.

You wanted to get people talking. Talking about cancer - normalising the conversation around this b****** disease.

With your sheer grit and determination we made it happen.

You had an idea that most people laughed at, "who wants to listen to a podcast about cancer?", they said.

Radio 5 Live gave us a shot, thanks to you...and You, Me And The Big C was born.

We've all been overwhelmed with the response we've had from listeners, thanks to you, tens of thousands of cancer patients and their families feel a little bit better.

You, Me And The Big C's Lauren's words to Rachael

Rachael Bland. Bloody hell baby girl.

A woman of sheer class, courage and kick ass humour.

It has been an honour to share oxygen with you.

Did you ever know how special you are? I hope so mate.

Probs should have said this more, but you're my role model.

The legacy you have left behind is a thing to behold.

You've changed so many lives for the better, including mine.

You changed my life, Rach, and I'll carry you in my heart for the rest of it.

I'll love you forever, be proud of you always.

The world is darker today, my bubs.

But your light? That will continue to shine brighter than ever.

Steve, Freddie and family, we love you. We've got you.

I'm so sorry.

I know right now you'll be having the last laugh, knowing your mission to get people talking has started.

And we realised your dream, the podcast made it to number one. I know you died knowing this, and I know how happy it would've made you. I just wish you were here to celebrate with Lozz and the rest of the team.

We've always agreed that if we don't laugh, we will cry and while I'm crying right now writing this, I promise that I will laugh again.

It's hard not to laugh when I think of you, you were one of the only people I know who can flip the darkness of cancer into light.

When my cancer came back, you were the first person I called.

I called you because you were the only person who knew exactly how I was feeling.

You listened to me, you related to all my fears.

We talked about how life can be so damn unfair, how you wouldn't get to see Freddie grow up, or even make his first day at school.

It made me feel so lucky to know I've reached those milestones with my babies.

But, you didn't let either of us dwell on the fear.

Instead, you instantly turned our sadness into a debate over if we should re-name the podcast "Til Death Do Us Part".

You sent me a barrage of death jokes, gifs of dancing grim reapers and asked if we should try for a 2 for 1 deal on funerals.

Would we get free flowers if we instagrammed it?!

You were the only reason I was able to laugh through that darkness.

Today, I hate cancer more than ever. I hate that it's stolen my bestie, left my world a duller, sadder place.

But, losing you will just make me more determined. More determined to shout even louder about cancer, to talk more and make damn sure the conversation you started carries on.

You lifted the curtain on cancer and put in on the main stage.

By doing so you helped so many people embrace their cancer, rather than run away from it.

You inspired people with your brutal honesty, sharing your story highs, lows...all of it.

 You inspired people with your brutal honesty, sharing your story highs, lows…all of it
RACHAEL BLAND
You inspired people with your brutal honesty, sharing your story highs, lows…all of it

You were absolutely determined to make sure people knew you can live with cancer, even if you're dying.

You told people when you had good days, you were honest when you were scared.

You inspired me to do the same.

You didn't lose a battle, you didn't succumb to cancer.

You tried every damn treatment, every miracle "cure", but you had a clever cancer - of course you did, it was yours!

It's taken you from us, and no one is feeling that more than your wonderful Steve, darling Freddie and your family.

 You tried every damn treatment, every miracle “cure”, but you had a clever cancer – of course you did, it was yours!
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You tried every damn treatment, every miracle “cure”, but you had a clever cancer – of course you did, it was yours!
 Thank you, Rach, for letting me be a part of your life, for showing me one person can change the world. All my love forever x
DEBORAH JAMES
Thank you, Rach, for letting me be a part of your life, for showing me one person can change the world. All my love forever x

I know leaving Freddie was the scariest thing about all this for you.

But you have left him an incredible legacy, in your work - something he will forever be able to look back on. He will be so proud of his amazing mum.

You spent days writing everything down for him, making sure that everything you wanted to say was said.

As he grows up, he'll always have your words, straight from his mum's mouth.

He will always know how much you love him.

Your life was too short, but you lived it to the max.

You lived with a purpose, to make people sit up and listen, and we will all make sure that continues.

It will be so hard without you, but we will find a way forward and we will take your message with us.

You will always be in our hearts. I am so proud to call you one of my besties.

Thank you, for giving me the strength, support and laughter through the hardest times.

For allowing me to be part of your life, and showing me and the rest of the world, that one person really can change it.

All my love forever,

Deborah xx

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