Jennifer Saunders health: ‘Wanted to cry all day’ Star discusses her breast cancer ordeal

Jennifer Saunders health: ‘Wanted to cry all day’ Star discusses her breast cancer ordeal


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Jennifer Saunders is the comedic genius behind the popular show Absolutely Fabulous. The star was candid when discussing her shocking diagnosis in October 2009 of breast cancer. Ever the optimist with an ability to look at the funny side of life, Saunders reveals how she soon became to enjoy her treatment for the disease and how she was able to pull through.

Saunders breast cancer diagnosis came just as she planned a year off following the end of a farewell tour of Britain and Australia with her comedy partner Dawn French.

She booked a routine mammogram after a holiday in Spain with a friend who’d just gone through her own breast cancer treatment.

But doctors at London’s Royal Marsden hospital found the mother-of-three had two lumps in her left breast and she was immediately admitted for a lumpectomy.

“There are times when you want to cry all day,” writes Saunders star in her autobiography, Bonkers: My Life in Laughs.

She continued: “My lowest point came when I lost all my hair; every eyelash, every follicle. I felt chemical. I felt like a chemical.

“Then I got a terrible rash all over my face. They think it was a reaction to the Herceptin.

“It was horrible. I felt like a great big overgrown baby with pimples all over my face. A big, horrible, red-faced baby.”

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Symptoms of breast cancer

Cancer Research UK states: “The first symptom of breast cancer, for most people, is a lump in their breast or some thickening.”

There are five breast cancer symptoms to be aware of, which are:

A new lump or thickening in your breast or armpit

Change in size, shape or feel of your breast

Skin changes in the breast such as puckering, dimpling, a rash or redness of the skin

Fluid leaking from the nipple in a woman who isn’t pregnant or breastfeeding

Changes in the position of nipple


Cancer Research UK listed the main treatments for breast cancer include:




Hormonal therapy (also called endocrine therapy)

Targeted cancer drugs

Bone strengthening drugs (bisphosphonates)

“You might have a combination of these treatments, depending on your situation,” the health site added.

“Your doctor will take many different factors into account when deciding which treatment is best for you.”

Saunders discussed her gruelling treatment which involved her having a ‘portacath’ tube inserted in her arm into which the ‘huge horse syringe’ of red-coloured drugs would be injected.

What followed was what the star called the mother of all hangovers.

She said: “It’s like a night on mixed spirits, wine and grappa. It’s a real cracker. It’s a humdinger.”

She describes how she sat in a large white chair in her own cubicle at the Central London hospital and was also given a ‘cold cap’; a helmet-like device that freezes the scalp and is supposed to help prevent hair loss caused by the side effects of the strong chemo drugs.

“The weird thing is that I came to quite enjoy my visits to the clinic,’ she had written in her book.

“If you’re me, having treatment is a fairly good thing: your life has a routine and pattern. You do what you’re told, and I find that quite liberating.

“You just grit your teeth and bear it. It becomes your job, and your job is now getting through this next year of whatever.

“In a funny way that releases you to say, ‘What do I have to do today? Oh, I have this or that hospital appointment’ – although I did find it quite odd, the number of hospital appointments.

“I became quite addicted to my old chair and my nurse, who was very good at stabbing me – you know, getting the portacath in – because, I can tell you, you don’t want any fiddling about.”

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