Time runs out for star who took on cancer

Rachael Bland
Rachael Bland
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Barely two days after telling the world that her time was nearly up, and surrounded by her family, the “on air” light went out on Rachael Bland.

The BBC news presenter, 40 years old and mother to a son of two, had spent the last 22 months broadcasting the progress of her breast cancer, which was declared in May of this year to be incurable.

She had signed off in a tweet posted on Monday. “I’m told I’ve only got days. It’s very surreal,” she wrote.

Her radio series, distributed by the BBC as a podcast, had drawn admiration from fellow broadcasters for its frank and darkly humorous take on the disease. Everyone, said the director-general, Tony Hall, had been moved by her courage and dignity.

Ms Bland’s husband, Steve, confirmed the news on the Twitter account his wife had used.

“Our beautiful, courageous Rachael died peacefully this morning surrounded by her close family,” he wrote.

“We are crushed but she would want me to thank everyone who took an interest in her story or sent messages of support. You’ll never know how much they meant to her.”

He signed the message with his name and that of their son, Freddie.

Ms Bland had been diagnosed with primary triple-negative breast cancer in 2016 and had been documenting her journey on her blog, Big C Little Me, and podcast, You, Me and the Big C.

Originally from South Wales, she had joined the BBC in 2001, and her career started at Radio Wiltshire, where she worked as a journalist and newsreader.

She later joined BBC Radio 5 Live where she became a feature on Richard Bacon’s late-night show and ended up staying on. She also began presenting duties on the BBC News.

In 2011, when the BBC relocated to Salford, hers was the first voice on Radio 5 Live’s inaugural broadcast from the new location.

Her husband said: “Rachael’s death has left a huge hole in our perfect little family that we’ll never be able to fill.

“We all take such huge comfort and pride from the amazing and tireless work she has done since her diagnosis to reduce the stigma around cancer and prove that it is possible to live life to the fullest even when facing huge challenges on a daily basis. At the end, even though her body was at its weakest, her voice was at its strongest and most powerful.”

Dame Kelly Holmes, who spoke earlier this week about her mother’s death from cancer, said Ms Bland had “done more for awareness then anyone and for that people are truly grateful”.

Jonathan Wall, controller of Radio 5 Live, also said Ms Bland had “made a profound difference to so many lives”.

She turned the final year of her life into the finest year of her life delivering the most important broadcasting I have ever heard about living with cancer, and ultimately facing death because of cancer,” he said.

Tony Livesey, her friend and colleague on the station, said her podcast had been her way of dealing with her illness.

“The closer to death she became, the determination she had to stick two fingers up to cancer was gloriously disproportionate to her state of health,” he said.