Girls Aloud Singer Sarah Harding Shares Breast Cancer Battle: 'I Won't See Another Christmas'
"In December my doctor told me that the upcoming Christmas would probably be my last," the singer, 39, says in an excerpt from her memoir, Hear Me Out, printed by The Times on Saturday.
"I don't want an exact prognosis. I don't know why anyone would want that," she adds.
Harding first revealed her cancer diagnosis via a social media post in August 2020 alongside a selfie taken from her hospital bed.
"There's no easy way to say this and actually it doesn't even feel real writing this, but here goes," Harding posted on her Twitter and Instagram accounts. "I am fighting as hard as I possibly can."
Hear Me Out goes into detail about her health battle, starting with when Harding first discovered a lump in her breast. "I'd been playing my guitar a lot, and I thought the strap had probably irritated an area around my breast," she writes.
The singer has since undergone both chemotherapy and a mastectomy in an effort to control the disease. She also spent two weeks in an induced coma after doctors fitted a catheter called a "port" to her chest that enables chemotherapy drugs to be administered directly into the bloodstream. While this initially helped to control Harding's painful symptoms, it ultimately caused her to develop life-threatening swelling in both her chest and neck.
"I don't really remember much after that," she writes. "I only know what I've been told. At some point, my blood pressure fell dangerously low, and I was rushed into intensive care."
"Straight away, my port was removed, but with both my lungs and my kidneys failing, doctors decided to put me into an induced coma," she adds. "Even then, the doctor wasn't sure he was going to be able to pull me back from it, so advised Mum to prepare for the worst."
Thankfully, Harding pulled through two weeks later. She then spent two more weeks in the ICU for observation and, when strong enough, started chemotherapy. Yet she was soon faced with another ordeal: having to undergo a mastectomy to control the spread of her cancer.
Harding writes that she "screamed the place down" after she woke from the surgery. "Now there's just a bunch of stitches where my breast used to be," she adds.
"I can't look at myself in the mirror anymore. I can't face it. On top of everything else, I just don't look like me anymore. I don't recognize myself. It's very hard to wake up every morning knowing that a part of me is missing; that part of my womanhood is gone. The loss of it breaks my heart."
To make matters even worse, subsequent MRI scans have revealed that Harding's tumors have continued to spread throughout her body, including her brain.
While radiotherapy is an option, she told her doctors that she would prefer to stick with her chemotherapy plan and preserve her beautiful blonde locks. "If there's a chance I've only got six months, then I've got six months. Losing my hair probably wasn't going to change that," she writes.
The singer dedicated herself to writing Hear Me Out in the hope that her story might encourage more women to seek medical advice the moment they find something in their breasts — and, more specifically, to not use COVID-19 lockdown as an excuse to remain in "denial."
"Writing about my cancer, I found myself thinking, 'Do I want everyone to know this?' " she told The Times on Saturday. "But I kept thinking that if there was a chance just one person who read my story decided to get checked and was treated in time, then it was worth it."
Harding is now living with what's likely to be the end stages of her cancer. To keep herself going she enjoys simple pleasures such as watching Family Guy on TV, roasting a chicken or having the occasional glass of wine.
In her memoir, she admits that she doesn't know how many months she has left and is "trying to find joy" however she can by spending time with her friends and family.
Yet the popstar nicknamed 'Hardcore Harding' by the British tabloids for her wild partying hasn't completely vanished.
"What I'd really like to do is to see everyone — all my friends, all together. One last time. Then I'd throw a great big f— off party as a way to say thank you and goodbye," she writes in her memoir. "Wouldn't that be amazing?"