Former MP backs cause close to his heart

John Nicolson
John Nicolson

Former East Dunbartonshire MP John Nicolson is backing an awareness campaign for ovarian cancer in memory of his beloved aunt who died of the devastating disease.

John, who became an MP after a career in broadcasting spanning three decades, said his aunt Edith was the reason he entered politics.

She left him her home in Bearsden after she died following a five-year fight with the disease and John said she encouraged him to stand for election as the SNP candidate for the area, which he represented between 2015 and 2017.

“She was my second Mum,” says John, the former BBC Breakfast presenter, who is one of 11 celebrities backing the ovarian cancer charity Ovacome’s ‘Have you been tealed?’ campaign.

The personalities have been photographed wearing something teal – the signature colour of the disease.

“I am delighted to support Ovacome,” says John, who presently hosts a weekly show on Talk Radio. “So many families are affected by ovarian cancer in this country. And ours is one of them.

“My aunt Edith fought the condition for five years. With help and support she lived life to the full during those years. I remember fun holidays with her in Greece and countless dinners at home with her in Bearsden.

“When Edith died, she left me her house. And it was to become my constituency home when I became the MP for East Dunbartonshire. I think she’d have been pleased. Life has a funny way of delivering happy outcomes from the saddest circumstances.

“I think of her every day. She was brave and an eternal optimist. I know she’d have been a passionate supporter of Ovacome.”

The idea behind the campaign, shot by Getty Images’ cameraman and editor Ming Yeung, is that people will question whether they have been ‘tealed’ – shorthand for knowing the symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Central to the campaign is Ovacome’s BEAT acronym of the main symptoms: 
B for bloating that doesn’t come and go; E for eating less and feeling fuller quicker; A for abdominal or pelvic pain and T for change in toilet habits, bowel or urinary.

In recent research, Ovacome found that despite bloating being a main sign of ovarian cancer, with almost nine in 10 women diagnosed after having suffered from it – only 20% of them went to see their GP as a result of the symptom.

Women were far more likely to seek medical help when they had abdominal pain (47%), or a change in urination (25%).

Ming’s wife and member of Ovacome Rebecca Readshaw was diagnosed with the disease five years ago. Her stomach pain was repeatedly dismissed by her GP as a parasitic infection from a stint in India. Rebecca also had bloating but thought nothing of it as she had a history of irritable bowel syndrome.

He said: “I can’t help thinking if Rebecca had been seen by a woman GP her ovarian cancer may have been picked up earlier.”

BBC camera operator Rebecca, aged just 36, has stage 4 incurable ovarian cancer.

Ming added: “Hopefully, this campaign will help make everyone aware – including men – what to look out for and not to dismiss the symptoms.”

If you are worried about ovarian cancer visit www.ovacome.org.uk or phone Ovacome’s freephone support line on 0800 008 7054.