Duchess of York has the positivity to overcome her cancer diagnosis - Christa Ackroyd

I like the Duchess of York. How that woman is still standing, let alone remaining a shining beacon of positivity, I do not know.

Always in the spotlight, often for all of the wrong reasons, and now because of a second cancer diagnosis.

And yet having met her, I am here not only to wish her well, but to tell you she is my kind of woman. And she can get through this.

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When Sarah Ferguson burst onto the scene decades ago her persona was of a jolly hockey sticks posh sort of a gal, slightly awkward, slightly bull in a china shop but fun. She is also self deprecating, painfully honest, and has the most sunny, up-beat disposition I have come across in the world of celebrity. She is also incredibly beautiful in the flesh.

Sarah, Duchess of York. Photo credit: Kirsty O'Connor/PA WireSarah, Duchess of York. Photo credit: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Sarah, Duchess of York. Photo credit: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

Not that that matters but I wanted you to know because I suspect at the moment she is feeling anything other than beautiful as she faces yet another cancer battle and one I suspect which puts all the other difficult times she has faced into perspective. This time she will need all her strength, all the love of her family and, yes, all our support too. Because has she been through a lot.

The unhealthy comparisons with Princess Diana, as though it was some kind of a competition, were made almost from the moment she arrived onto the scene with all her boundless energy like an exuberant puppy. And it must have hurt, even though Sarah once described Diana as her best friend.

That the cool elegant Princess of Wales was nicknamed Lady Di adored for her looks and her gentleness while Sarah went first by the moniker of Fergie and years later was cruelly dubbed the Duchess of Pork.

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Yet in her own inimitable style and after being virtually bankrupt following her divorce from Prince Andrew she set about reinventing herself. She lost 50 pounds in weight and added considerable more to her bank balance by becoming an ambassador for Weightwatchers.

I absolutely loved her advice at the time when she said she had been told that a strict regime of gym and exercise was not as important as breaking an unhealthy relationship with food.

Fitness is mind, body and spirit… Free your mind and your bottom will follow.” That’s her in a nutshell. And that is the attitude she will need now. I have often felt sorry for her.

While Diana confessed to having at least one affair while married and received oodles of sympathy, Fergie endured universal condemnation when five months after separating from her husband she was pictured with her ‘financial advisor’ by a pool in the South of France in the sort of toe curling toe sucking romp that made the strongest of stomachs churn when it appeared splashed over the front pages the following day.

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And then there is the humiliation of being married to someone whom she has remained close enough to even share a house with post divorce who is embroiled in a much more serious scandal which has seen him virtually ousted from the Royal family and still, quite rightly, facing serious allegations over his conduct and friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Yet still she beamed and waved at the weddings of her precious daughters Beatrice and Eugénie saying they moved her to tears. Just as we would. She spoke of her great and genuine joy at being a granny, just as we do. And has always remained positive, seemingly making the best of any situation which is thrown at her. And now she faces a cancer battle for the second time in less than a year.

Typically Sarah, when she had a mastectomy after the early discovery of breast cancer last summer, joked that at least they had used some fat for her breast reconstruction. But behind the bravado, she admitted she faced the worry it would come back telling the Loose Women show how she wakes up and worries she she has got it somewhere else calling it the ‘four in the morning syndrome’.

And anyone facing a serious illness knows that feeling. Now it has. Skin cancer and the worst possible kind a malignant melanoma. And she will be petrified because despite the Royal title (which she kept) and her privileged upbringing the Duchess of York is as normal as they come.

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Of course the way the Royal Family deal with cancer or indeed illness is not normal. They have the best of hospitals and the best of after care, no expense spared, whereas many who suffer the same illnesses have to struggle on regardless.

The King has used his operation to highlight the dangers of an enlarged prostrate to urge men to get checked. Kate’s operation though not detailed is obviously serious if a fit active forty something has to remain in hospital for up to two weeks.

But the Palace has announced that the Prince of Wales will cancel his work commitments to look after his wife Katherine as she recovers from surgery. How many families could do that ? Sarah is coming to terms with her diagnosis at one of the poshest spas on the planet, a wellness centre in Austria where she will spend a few weeks getting her head together as she awaits further tests that the cancer in a mole that was removed has not spread anywhere else.

I have been to that clinic when my arthritis and lupus threatened to destroy my life. It cost more than a family holiday per week but they put my head and my body back together. But I know I was lucky enough to be able to afford to go there. I suspect Sarah, the King and the Princess of Wales all feel the same. They, in the most frightening moments of their life, know they are lucky that money is no object, that lifestyle means they can take time to recover. But that does not negate the fact that serious illness is a terribly worrying time no matter who you are.

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I have had a friend who has had a malignant melanoma and survived. I know of someone else who was not so lucky. Like the Duchess of York I have to go back in six weeks for further scans with a one in ten possibility that the lesion in my lung is cancerous, though like the Duchess, I remain positive that the odds are good and that having discovered the problem we have the best chance of survival. But strip away the crowns, the titles and yes the cash in the bank, facing serious illness and our own mortality is a desperately worrying time, no matter who you are.

And so may I wish Sarah, his Majesty and the Princess of Wales my best wishes. No negative ‘it’s alright for them’ comments from me. We are all human. And faced with a serious illness or being forced to come to terms with our own mortality feels the same for all of us.

And we will all go through it either ourselves or with loved ones. I remember one surgeon telling my mum when she was diagnosed with (and survived ) ovarian cancer… positivity is the best medicine. And Sarah, Duchess of York has that in spades.

I send her and everyone else worrying about a serious illness all my love and strength.

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