Cancer patients share personal insights in new podcast series

Wednesday 24 January 2024

Graphic showing the backs of four people, with arms round one another. The words underneath, say Now What? You cancer support podcast. Listen now.

Cancer podcast series

A new podcast series hosted by TV presenter Julia Bradbury and recorded by patients of Guy’s and St Thomas’ has launched to inspire, educate and support people who have been diagnosed with cancer.

The 10-part series called Now What?, funded by Guy’s Cancer Charity, includes personal experiences from 11 current and past cancer patients at the Trust on a wide range of aspects of cancer diagnosis, treatment and living with cancer.

The episodes cover issues which patients said they wanted more first-hand accounts of, including receiving a diagnosis, telling loved ones, deciding to have surgery and the cultural perspectives of cancer.

The patients who share their stories have had variations of the disease including breast, prostate, bladder, oesophageal and bowel cancers. Through the episodes they speak honestly about their own experiences, perspectives and lessons learned. They hope to dispel myths, help tackle loneliness and isolation and support current and new patients through what can be an uncertain and frightening time.

Headshot photo of Wendy Harris-Newland, who has dark curly hair and is wearing a black sleeveless top.

Wendy Harris-Newland

Wendy Harris-Newland has undergone treatment and surgery at Guy’s and St Thomas’ since she was first diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in March 2018. Her experiences of this prompted her to “give back” and support others who receive a cancer diagnosis.

Musician and lecturer Wendy 65, from Battersea in south London, said: “I wanted to give my knowledge – what I’ve learned through my experiences – to other patients, and to give back some of what I’ve received.

“If you’re a patient lying in that hospital bed, you can plug in to these podcasts, listen and hear from people and situations you can relate to. I want those patients to know – these are my war wounds. This is what I’ve survived. And I want to give them hope, to help take away some of the sting and the fears you have with a cancer diagnosis.”

Brian is standing on the left of the image, wearing a checked short-sleeve shirt and dark trousers. To his right is a photo of a vintage car.

Brian Pestell

Brian Pestell, 71, was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in 2018 and had surgery at Guy’s and St Thomas’ as part of his treatment.

Brian, a retired accountant from Whitstable in Kent, said he decided to share his experiences through the podcast series to give support to other people going through similar experiences.

He said: “My motivation in taking part in this project was that I want to inspire people going through this experience that life doesn’t have to come to an end with your diagnosis - there is hope out there.

“I have been successfully, almost miraculously treated. Oesophageal cancer is one of the cancers with a relatively low survival rate yet here I am five years later, right as nine-pence, going on with my normal life and playing tennis three or four times a week.

“My family and friends have been incredibly supportive. I have a large network of friends, and I am involved in the church – I have faith, which helped as well. It’s been a collective effort to support me. There is also communal support of the other people in hospital having the treatment. It helps to share your experiences and understand what they are going through.”

Julia Bradbury has previously spoken openly about her own experiences after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent treatment.

She said: “I know first-hand what it’s like to have your life upended by this disease, and the havoc it can wreak on your body, mind and everything in between.

I also know that with a little bit of luck and a lot of expertise, that surviving cancer isn’t just possible, it is becoming more and more likely with every passing year. I hope this series can provide some answers for patients, their family and loved ones.

With funding from Guy’s Cancer Charity, the pilot series was created with specialist production company What’s The Story? Sounds. The themes of the episodes were chosen by patients and each provides practical advice, emotional support and highlights local resources.

Guy’s Cancer Charity supports Guy’s Cancer to transform cancer care through the very latest developments in personalised care. From tailored treatments to the ongoing support of the dedicated clinicians, it helps support advances in cancer care for people like Wendy, Brian and Julia.

Olympia Schoepe, Trust funding manager at Guy’s Cancer Charity said: “We’re proud to fund Now What? This truly innovative podcast shares the stories of our cancer patients and ensures they are engaged throughout the development and recording. Anyone who has had a cancer diagnosis will understand the importance of having emotional and wellbeing support. We believe that patients hearing their peers’ experience, how they coped with and managed their cancer diagnosis, will support improvements that will deliver real benefit to the patients at Guy’s Cancer.”

The Now What? cancer podcast series can be accessed through the Guy’s and St Thomas’ website and can be streamed through Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify.

Last updated: January 2024

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