PUBLISHED ON: 1 June 2021

Jane was initially diagnosed with breast cancer 14 years ago, then found out she had secondary breast cancer in 2012. She tells us about the sorts of things that help her, as well as how she supports Breast Cancer Now.

Jane Devonshire after she won MasterChef

Telling my children was so difficult

I found a pea-sized lump in my right breast whilst in the shower. I remember it so clearly. It was the Friday after New Year, and a very dear friend of mine had recently had a real scare, so it had prompted me to check.

 I went straight to the doctors and things escalated.

I remember going to get my results with my husband, Mark, and being completely devastated when we were told it was breast cancer. 

At the time, I had four school-age children, and the youngest was only five. The worst was having to tell them and my parents. The guilt you feel inflicting that pain on your loved ones is awful, especially as you are supposed to protect them. 

I am very aware it was not my fault, but those conversations are still tough to think about.

Having cancer is an inescapable reality

I had a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. It was a very tough year. 

Losing my hair was incredibly hard, not because I am vain but because I felt it branded me as being sick. It’s like having a big sticker on you saying you’ve got cancer, and your reality becomes inescapable. 

At one stage I ended up on the neutropenic ward, but we got through it with incredible support. My parents came and stayed with us, which was especially helpful. They helped us keep the children’s diaries unchanged and gave them normality for which I am forever grateful. 

I also have the most amazing friends who formed a support group that I still rely on to this day.

Having secondary does not make me ‘brave’

The secondary diagnosis was also very hard to deal with initially. 

I was diagnosed just before my five-year all clear, which would have been a huge milestone for me emotionally as well as physically. It took much more of a toll on me than my primary diagnosis, and I went for counselling to help me through the stress and emotional strain. I really needed that help, and I am so thankful that it was available to me.

However, to this day, the continuous testing every six months, the MRI and CAT scans, the drugs – it can be very draining.

I get very frustrated when people tell me I have been brave.  Brave is people who rush into burning buildings, not people who have no choice but to fight like hell when your back is against the wall.

But I am incredibly grateful to the nurses, doctors, and healthcare professionals whom I can access whenever I need, and who provide me and my family with a support blanket when we need it. I see other countries’ healthcare and just thank my lucky stars to be born in the UK.

I have been able to live well with my diagnosis

Living well with a secondary cancer diagnosis, whilst not always easy, is an incredible opportunity that is not open to many in the world. I still find there is so much hope and joy to be had. I’ve never thought, ‘Why me?’ I’m just grateful to be here to be able to really enjoy life. 

Sometimes it’s hard, but it’s bloody amazing to be here, and that’s why the work that Breast Cancer Now does is so important.

I can’t stand the thought that any of our children would have to go through what I did; I want them all to live their lives cancer-free, and Breast Cancer Now is helping to achieve that. I look forward to the day the charity is not needed but, until then, I hope that others will support the work they do.

One of the things I love doing is baking

Over lockdown, I’ve been making so many cakes. I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth, but I have been making a lot of cakes and giving them to next-door neighbours.

To anyone who is thinking of fundraising through their own baking, I want to remind them that every little helps. It’s never about ‘how much’, but always about thanking anyone for taking the time and effort to support the charity. It’s not a competition, there is no right or wrong way, just do what’s best for you.

Also, as a top tip, I would say steer clear of fresh cream and try to bake things that are easy to transport, as you really don’t want to spend a day in the kitchen to have them break on the way over!

When we think of who our dream Afternoon Tea guests might be, our first instinct is to say incredible people and interesting heroes, stars of stage and screen or musicians. But, for me, the reality is I’d want to have my Grandparents there and my darling Auntie Eve and so many others who you really love who are no longer with us. So remember this when hosting your tea!

Most importantly: have a lovely afternoon, have a fabulous tea party, and support Breast Cancer Now.

Read Jane's recipes for a Doughball Bread and Gluten-Free Scones.

Find more delicious recipes to help you bake a difference at your Afternoon Tea. 

Afternoon Tea recipes