‘My battle with a brain tumour’

BBC 3CR presenter Helen Legh with some of the hats and wigs she bought after losing her hair following chemotherapy
BBC 3CR presenter Helen Legh with some of the hats and wigs she bought after losing her hair following chemotherapy

Even though BBC 3CR presenter Helen Legh has terminal brain cancer, she considers herself lucky.

“I don’t have any pain,” she explains, curled up on a leather settee in her comfortable Bletchley home.

Helen Legh and daughter Matilda

Helen Legh and daughter Matilda

“We’re all going to die and even if I might not be around as long as I’d hoped, I’m lucky being able to prepare for my own death.”

She’s facing the future with remarkable equanimity and says: “I’m not angry, it’s just something that’s happened. I don’t think ‘Why me?’”

But when she talks about her five-year-old daughter Matilda, that mellifluous voice that listeners have come to know and love on the Sunday Breakfast Show breaks quivers. “The only down side is leaving her, my husband Paul and Mum and Dad,” she says, eyes welling.

Matilda is the much-wanted child she and Paul had five years ago after three gruelling rounds of IVF. She was born 15 weeks premature and the couple were warned she might not survive.

But the tiny tot lived up to her name - it means warrior - and has just started school at High Ash CofE primary in Great Brickhill.

Helen, who grew up in Leighton, says: “After all she’s been through, it’s hard. She means everything to me. She knows I’ve got cancer and she doesn’t shy away from the word. We’ve explained that ‘Mummy has a big germ in her head’ and she knows I get tired. But she doesn’t know I’m going to die.”

Helen’s voice wobbles again: “I want to minimise the impact of this on her. I don’t want her to forget me, but I don’t want her to be so sad that she doesn’t get over it.

“I’m putting together a collection of postcards of my favourite places for special occasions. I’ve always loved fashion and there are three suitcases of my clothes in the loft.

“She’s also had an email address since she was born and I write her little notes on that now and again.”

The former Vandyke Upper pupil was diagnosed with Glioblastoma multiforme 4 last year and was given just 14 months to live. She had a seven hour operation to remove the tumour, followed by radiation and chemotherapy.

Helen has just turned 40 – and more people under 40 die from a brain tumour than any other form of cancer.

“At the moment I’m stable,” she says. “I’m taking part in a clinical trial with re-purpose drugs which are usually used for other illnesses. But they appear to kill cancer cells when used in combination with each other.”

She believes finding some form of faith might sustain her on the journey ahead and has enrolled on an Alpha course. But it’s soon obvious that the real reason behind this quest has more to do with reassuring Matilda. “When I die I want to say to her that I’m going to heaven,” she confesses.

Helen is keen to raise awareness of Milton Keynes-based charity Brain Tumour Research, which is dedicated to finding a cure.

> More details at www.braintumourresearch.org