Rachael Bland, a 40-year-old mother and former BBC presenter, has been battling breast cancer since her diagnosis in 2016. After going into remission, she received the heartbreaking news in April her cancer was not only back, but stronger than ever.
“’I’m sorry Rachael – it’s back and it’s incurable.’ From the moment you’re diagnosed with breast cancer, or any type of cancer, they’re the words you really don’t want to hear,” Bland wrote in a blog for HuffPost of the moment she learned her illness was fatal.
“My D-Day call, I jokingly refer to it as ‘Death-Day’, came back in April, while I was out playing with my 3-year-old son, Freddie. Hearing those words ripped the air right out of my lungs and I had to lean against a wall to steady myself. Holding in the huge sobs I knew were coming, I just needed to get home and call my surgeon in peace with my husband Steve at my side. On the short journey back I wept and kept telling Freddie, ‘I’m so sorry’.”
Once she learned the devastating news, Bland said she immediately went into denial. She researched experimental treatment options, knowing how “slim the chances might be,” grasping at anything to help her see her young son grow up.
“When you are in my position – knowingly approaching the end of your life at just 40 years old, with a husband you adore with all your heart and a 3-year-old son you love so much that if you looked at him too long your heart could burst – you need two major things to get you through. Hope. And denial,” she wrote. “It is as a mother that I have to employ my strongest skills of denial. I’m too scared to ask the doctors how long I’ve got left – it would be a guesstimate number that would hang over me. So we make plans, knowing it’s not very long.”
Bland explained she was in contact with her sister-in-law to let her know all the things she wants “for Freddie and his future,” rather than telling them to her husband, Steve, in fear it might “overwhelm and upset him.”
“Like not cutting his hair too short until he really insists, or my wish for him to go to the very best school and university possible, so long as that’s what he wants,” she wrote in her blog.
Bland also diligently planned ahead — until her son’s 21st birthday — to make sure he had gifts to open from her each year.
“Personal effects like my notepads – so he can see what my writing was like. Or the perfume he helped pick out for me earlier this year so he’ll remember my smell. And his all-important box of newborn keepsakes,” she said.
“The main thing is that, while he’s so young, I want him to remember me in some way,” Bland added. “I hope the book and these gifts and notes will leave an imprint of my love behind for the rest of his life. So he can be sure how very much I love him.”
Bland passed away “peacefully, surrounded by her close family” on September 5.
“We are all heartbroken and the hole she leaves in our perfect little family will never be filled,” her husband, Steve, wrote on his wife’s Facebook page where she was chronicling her illness. “We’ll miss her so very much but we couldn’t be prouder of what she achieved in her 40 years, and we are genuinely comforted by the impact we know she had on so many lives. Thank you.”
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