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STEVENS: How Julia took on cancer with brave face and steely courage

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: How Julia Bradbury took on cancer with a brave face and steely courage

Julia Bradbury: Breast Cancer And Me

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Rebuilding Notre-Dame: The Next Chapter

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We all put on a front to face the world. No one does it better than a TV host.

Unless stories of personal problems for a television personality are in the headlines, few viewers spend much time wondering what’s going wrong behind the scenes.

When Julia Bradbury presented a nature segment from an English woodland on ITV’s This Morning last autumn, no one could have guessed she was living in dread of a cancer diagnosis.

Julia Bradbury: Breast Cancer And Me (ITV) captured the moment she switched on her camera persona, private worry lines melting away as she turned to address viewers in a friendly, confidential way.

It’s only when we realise what that facade might hide that we see how much courage it sometimes takes to appear so confident.

That day, Julia was waiting to escape the cameras, to find a private spot where she could take a call from an oncologist. The results of a biopsy on a lump in her left breast were ready, and intuition warned her to prepare for bad news.

 When Julia Bradbury presented a nature segment from an English woodland on ITV’s This Morning last autumn, no one could have guessed she was living in dread of a cancer diagnosis

Julia Bradbury: Breast Cancer And Me captured the moment she switched on her camera persona, private worry lines melting away as she turned to address viewers in a friendly, confidential way

Intuition was right. The consultant told her: ‘Yes, you have got cancer — and it’s a big tumour.’

‘When you hear the words, “You’ve got cancer,” your world stops,’ Julia said, stunned but calm. ‘It’s like moving instantly into slow motion.’

This moving and important documentary, following her and her family in the days before and after her mastectomy, offered a brave public insight into a deeply private ordeal.

She steeled herself to show her body, with lines like a sewing pattern drawn on her breasts to show where the scalpel would go. She also revealed the results of her reconstructive surgery.

For Julia, aged 51, even more appalling than the prospect of a major operation was the terror of leaving her three young children without their mother.

Thankfully, she was able to protect her 11-year-old son and her twin daughters (born after IVF eight years ago) from the worst of the anxiety. But her own mum and her sister were both devastated. Each woman said, with undramatic honesty, that she would take the cancer and suffer it herself if she could — for the sake of the children as well as for Julia.

Julia called this ‘the shrapnel effect — everybody goes through it with you and suffers, and that’s also really unfair’.

Cancer never is fair, of course. Yet one woman in seven will suffer breast cancer in her lifetime, and statistics say half of all Brits will have a cancer diagnosis at some time.

This programme will have given heart and reassurance to many. It also provides a reminder that, however unruffled the surface of a presenter’s life might appear, there is so much the camera does not ordinarily see.

Lucy Worsley took the cameras to places unseen for centuries, as she donned a hard hat and climbed the scaffolding on Rebuilding Notre-Dame: The Next Chapter (BBC2).

Lucy Worsley took the cameras to places unseen for centuries, as she donned a hard hat and climbed the scaffolding on Rebuilding Notre-Dame: The Next Chapter

She was able to examine the magnificent rose window of medieval stained glass, almost close enough to touch it

She was able to examine the magnificent rose window of medieval stained glass, almost close enough to touch it. Experts pointed out the subtle difference between 13th-century craftsmanship and sections added by restorers 150 years ago.

Prof Lucy didn’t join the film crew as they watched glass blowers using 800-year-old techniques to create new coloured panes. That’s a pity, as she admired the window so much.

But she did get to see the Victorian architect’s drawings of the 750-ton spire, destroyed in the 2019 fire that wrecked the cathedral.

She loved the original sketches for the stonework decorations, too. ‘It’s the famous gargoyles,’ she cried. ‘Here they are — gargling!’

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