Jacquie Beltrao Wants to Talk About Breast Cancer
TV news presenter Jacquie Beltrao on being a ‘poster girl’ for breast cancer survivors.
Committed to being open about her breast cancer diagnosis, Jacquie Beltrao recently became the ‘face’ of a collaboration between Amoena, breast cancer charity Future Dreams and top swimwear designer Melissa Odabash. Here, she talks about how her unofficial support network helped her get through a difficult time.
Jacquie was diagnosed in December 2013. Did she reach out to other women for advice and support?
“I did speak to a couple of other women,” she says, “one before my breast surgery and one before chemotherapy. I also talked to my friend Joanna, who is a breast cancer nurse, to find out more—I just wanted to know what to expect from a mastectomy and reconstruction.”
No regrets, and a network of breast cancer support
Jacquie chose to have a full mastectomy—does she have any regrets about this?
No regrets about the decision I made to have a mastectomy rather than lumpectomy” she says. “Again, though, I spoke to Joanna, who said that with small breasts radiotherapy can leave a messy result. So I took the opportunity to start again, rather than working with what was left after breast-conserving surgery.”
Although she chose not to seek out an official support group, Jacquie made full use of her own support network in her own way.
“Joanna knows everything there is to know, and is pretty matter-of-fact about the whole process, as she sees it all the time. This helped me get things into perspective,” explains Jacquie. “I tried not to let breast cancer change any of my relationships; I wanted to just get on with things and ‘breeze through it’—although actually, after about my third chemo session it was hard at times to be ‘breezy!’”
Jacquie did make one important new friend as a result of her experience.
“What helped a lot was a lady that my surgeon, Mr. Sharma, asked me to speak to. Her name was Julia and she was about six weeks behind me in her treatment and needed a mastectomy, but didn’t want one. She came round to my house on the evening of my first chemo session and she was worried. I wasn’t feeling great but I talked her through the operation, and she left feeling a lot better. We got along really well and became friends through the whole process.
“Julia’s husband and mine would meet for a beer and it felt good to have solidarity with another couple going through the same thing. We are really close now. My kids babysit hers and we all go on vacation together.”
Poster Girl for Melissa Odabash Mastectomy Swimwear Collection
Jacquie admits that, thanks to her high-profile career, she has become a focal point for women who, like her, have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
“People do want to talk to me about their diagnosis and I am happy to do so—I don’t really edit anything. I think the more people talk about breast cancer, the less scary it will become,” she explains. “If I can help anyone through this by being someone who has come through it herself and is there for all to see because I’m on TV every day, then that’s great—very happy to be a poster girl,” she adds enthusiastically.
“When Future Dreams asked me, my immediate reaction was to say ‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ but what actually came out of my mouth was ‘OK, love to!’ Having cancer, and the grueling treatment that goes with it, actually changes your outlook on life. I’m much more open to new experiences and meeting new people these days. And besides, I’d never done a proper modelling shoot before, so I knew it was going to be fun.”
Asked how she initially felt about her surgery, Jacquie is refreshingly positive: “When I first looked in the mirror after my operation, to be honest I was quite thrilled. I’d never had much of a bust and now I had one, and it was as near perfect as it could be under the circumstances.”
She has some tips for body confidence and banishing the blues, too:
“If I’m feeling low, I give myself a boost by going for a run or doing some yoga —something to make the muscles hurt. Exercise is the best body confidence boost I can think of,” says the ex-Olympic gymnast.