Turning 60 in 2020, Nigella began to reflect on those closest to her who she has sadly lost. In addition to her mother in 1985, aged 48, her sister Thomasina passed away in 1993 aged 32 after a battle with breast cancer, and Nigella’s first husband, John Diamond, passed away from throat cancer in 2001 aged 47. In a candid interview a few years ago, celebrating her 60th year, Nigella opened up about her past losses, and how the experience has made her ignore how old she is, as long as she remains fit and healthy.
Speaking to Good Housekeeping, the British cook and author explained: “To be completely honest, I’ve never been able to take for granted that I’d be alive by this age.
“My mother died at 48 and my sister at 32… and then John at 47.”
Nigella said: “So, even if I were the sort of person who planned ahead, I don’t think I would have seen myself here.”
Speaking more about her mother, who she claimed taught her most of what she knows, Nigella continued: “I was brought up by a mother – the cook I have learned most from – whose grimly exuberant output in the kitchen was set in painfully sharp relief, and indeed fostered, by an expanding pattern of self-denial and self-punishment; not an uncommon syndrome, incidentally.
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“Diagnosed with terminal cancer two weeks before her death, she started eating – for the first time, she said giddily – without worry or guilt.”
Reflecting on how her mother’s relationship with food has influenced her own, the now 62-year-old chef added: “How unbearably sad to allow yourself unmitigated pleasure in food only when you receive a terminal diagnosis.
“I want to maximise my enjoyment, not just eat for the sake of it. When I eat chocolate I linger over each square, deciding which I will let melt slowly in my mouth.
“I also know what the alternative is, so it feels wrong when you’ve been surrounded by people who have died young to say, ‘My hair’s awful, I’ve got to get my roots done,’ or, ‘My hands look like lizards’.
“So I don’t dwell on it. As long as you’re healthy, that really is the most important thing.”
Despite remaining adamant that she doesn’t dwell on the effects of ageing or health too much, Nigella did go on to reveal the harder side to filming cookery programmes.
“The harder part is the filming,” she said. “It’s physically very draining standing up all day for seven weeks or so, and there isn’t really room for anything else during that time.
“It’s a bit frightening and I always think, ‘I don’t know if I can do this again’, but then I start and I get excited again.”
With around 375,000 new cancer cases in the UK every year, it is important to be aware of the signs or symptoms that might indicate you or someone you know might have the disease, especially if you have lost loved ones to a type of cancer.
Cancer Research UK explains that there are over 200 different types of cancer that can cause many different symptoms, but the more general signs include:
- Weight loss
- Unexplained pain.
These symptoms may occur as a result of cancer cells taking up too much of the body’s energy supply. Alternatively, a cancer could release substances that change the way the body makes energy and causes the immune system to react in ways that produce the above symptoms.
Although the NHS warns that it is unlikely to be a cancer, finding it early can make it easier to treat. Therefore, if individuals are experiencing any changes in the following for more than three weeks, you should seek medical attention:
- Changes in bowel habits
- Coughing, chest pain and breathlessness
- Tummy or back pain
- Indigestion and heartburn
- Itchy or yellow skin
- Night sweats
For some cancers such as breast or testicular, checking your own body regularly for physical changes can help to detect early symptoms.
The NHS advises that it is important for individuals to get to know how their breasts feel at different times of the month, as they can change during a menstrual cycle. After the menopause, breasts can also feel softer, less firm and not as lumpy.
In order to check your breasts, feel each breast and armpit, and up to your collarbone. You may find it easiest to do this in the shower or bath, by running a soapy hand over each breast and up under each armpit. You can also look at your breasts in the mirror, both with your arms raised and by your side.
For testicles, the NHS says that they should feel smooth, without lumps or bumps and firm but not hard. It is best to check your balls when you are warm and standing up. This could be after a bath or shower. To best check your testicles, cup them with your hand and roll each one between your finger and thumb. Noticing any lumps, pain or swelling could indicate something is wrong.