AfterThoughts: Cancer, Telling It Like It Is, and Marrying Jon Hamm [Season 3, Episode 3]

Hosts and Guests

Toby Peach [Host]

Alice-May Purkiss [Host]

Miranda Ashitey [Guest]


Toby: Every day, 34 people in their 20s and 30s are diagnosed with cancer. 

Alice: On the 7th July 2015, I was one of the 34.

Toby: On 28th August 2008, I was one of the 34.

Alice: These are the stories of what happens afterward.

Toby: This is AfterThoughts

This series of AfterThoughts is created in partnership with Life Effects by Teva and supported by Trekstock. 

Cancer, Telling It Like It Is, and Marrying Jon Hamm

Toby: Alice, here we are.

Alice: Here we are again.

Toby: You're very sing-y today. You know that. Full of song.

Alice: Always full of song.

Toby: Is that because we're reaching towards Easter and lots of chocolate eggs?

Alice: There's a massive box downstairs that I'm really hoping is my Easter egg from Chris.

Toby: How big are we talking?

             Alice: Like the size of my torso.

Toby: Would he get you an Easter egg that big?

Alice: I don't know. We set each other a £30 budget for Easter eggs for the first year ever this year.

Toby: What?

Alice: We've never bought each other an Easter egg before. And then we were like, "Oh, because it's just us this year, shall we like be excessive? We've never bought each other Easter eggs. I was like, "Shall we set each other an excessive Easter egg budget this year and buy each other ridiculous Easter eggs because it's just the two of us?"

Toby: £30?

Alice: Yeah.

Toby: You can get Easter eggs for a quid.

Alice: Yeah. We've gone all out. That's what lockdown's done to us.

Toby: I am really excited to see this. I hope you post something on your socials.

Alice: No, I'm going to send you a direct message.

Toby: Fantastic.

Alice: Not a direct message. Like a WhatsApp.

Toby: If it's the same size as your body, it could have your cat hiding inside it.

Alice: No, the cat's somewhere around.

Toby: I know that, but you could put the cat inside.

Alice: Why would I put the cat inside some chocolate? Then it would have hair inside.

Toby: That's so true.

Alice: Yes. Anyway, it's Easter Sunday, the day after the day after tomorrow.

Toby: Exciting time.

Alice: Apparently, I'm delirious. How are you?

Toby: Yeah. I'm all right. We are very excited that on today's episode of AfterThoughts, we have had Miranda join us. Or as I like to call Miranda, the John Hamm superfan.

Alice: John Hamm superfan, who also goes by the name of Mizzy, which I just think is the most fantastic nickname.

Toby: Yeah. I feel like I should have called her Mizzy more often.

Alice: Yeah. Maybe I'll start calling you Tizzy.

Toby: Miranda has so many fantastic stories and is really honest about her experience of having secondary breast cancer and living with and beyond the diagnosis. So it's going to be something that I really hope that you, all our listeners, are going to really take something from because I feel like Miranda gave us so much.

Alice: Yeah, absolutely. So shall we head-on into the conversations we had with Miranda?

Toby: Let's do it.

Alice: All right.

Toby: Hi, Alice.

Alice: Hello, Toby.

Toby: How are you today?

Alice: I'm all right, thanks.

Toby: You were in the sun.

Alice: Am I? Am I in the sun again?

Toby: Yeah. It's a nice thing to do.

Alice: It's not actually that sunny here. How are you?

Toby: I am very well. Thank you. I'm very excited to be here for another episode of AfterThoughts.

Alice: Yes. And I am so excited that we are joined by Miranda. Miranda, welcome to AfterThoughts.

Miranda: Hello. Welcome. Thank you very much.

Alice: Oh, we are so happy to have you here. Toby and I have already been admiring your fantastic Blade Runner unicorn top. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that?

Miranda: Well, Blade Runner is one of those movies that I absolutely love. I had to watch it for A-level media studies and assess it. I think it was made... was it made in 1982, the year I was born? So [crosstalk 00:04:19] as well. And it was directed by Ridley Scott, who lived in the North East, and I lived in the North East. Actually, in the first opening scene, when you see all of the planes coming out of Los Angeles, he based it on Middlesbrough.

Alice: He did not.

Miranda: Yeah. Because obviously, they had all of the steelworks and the gasworks.

Alice: Yeah. Out of Teesside. I never knew that.

Miranda: Yeah. Yeah. He based it on that.

Alice: I'm from not that far from Teesside, from Middlesbrough.

Miranda: Oh, okay. [crosstalk 00:04:53]-

Toby: Now, Miranda, I'm going to ask the question about the sequel. Were you a lover or a hater?

Miranda: I loved it. I was really worried. When they came out with it, I was like, "Ooh, I don't know, I don't know." And then it came out, and I was like, "Actually, this is really, really fantastic." Because I've read the books, obviously, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? And it's a lot different if you read the book and you watch the movie. But, you can appreciate both, separately and together. But I think the sequel was really well thought out. It had to be. There was there's too much riding on it.

Toby: And it's so beautifully filmed. I mean, we are diving into the delights of film chat.

Alice: Yeah, lots of film chat. You two could chat for hours about film.

Toby: I loved it. I loved it. I loved it. Alice, shall we dive into... Because we are in series three of AfterThoughts. We have rejigged our quick-fire questions.

Alice: Yes. We have rejigged our quick-fire questions. Shall we-

Toby: And dive straight into them. Miranda, are you ready for our quick-fire questions?

Miranda: I am all set. Come on, bring it on.

Alice: All right. Okay. Because we like to talk about the person, the human, before the cancer, we're going to hit you with our quick-fire questions. So Miranda, please can you tell us the pronouns that you use?

Miranda: She/her.

Toby: Miranda, who do people say that you look like?

Miranda: I look like... Oh, that's a very funny question... Not a funny question... I don't know. A lot of people just think I look like any other black person, I guess. Missy Elliott.

Toby: Missy Elliott.

Alice: Ooh, that's a great lady to look like.

Toby: [crosstalk 00:06:43]. Nice.

Alice: What film defines your childhood?

Miranda: Supergirl.

Alice: Ooh, nice. Nice.

Toby: Miranda, who is your hero?

Miranda: Ooh, that's a tough one. My hero. You know what? I'm going to choose me. I'm my own hero.

Alice: Yes, girl. Love that. Amazing. Do you have any nicknames? What are they?

Miranda: Yes. Mizzy. Tram. Mimi. Murma. Mermaid. Mandy. That's pretty much it, I think.

Alice: Amazing.

Toby: Nice. Miranda, if you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life, what song would you listen to?

Miranda: Swing Out Sister, Breakout.

Alice: Nice. Roller coasters, love them or hate them?

Miranda: Love them.

Toby: What is your favorite way to eat a potato?

Miranda: Chippy chips.

Alice: Nice. Nice. And Miranda, please could you give us a one-line summary of your diagnosis?

Miranda: Rubbish.

Alice: Yes. Fair. But could you tell us what it was for the listeners?

Miranda: Oh. So I was initially diagnosed with primary breast cancer, August 2014. I was in remission from November 2015 until February 2019, when I was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer.

Toby: First up on AfterThoughts, we have the pleasure of diving into a story about Beyond the Diagnosis. So this part of the podcast, we always focus on looking at a story that is not that diagnosis story because we get to hear that story and tell that story a lot. So we want to focus on perhaps one of those moments that occurs after that moment. So, Miranda, I'm going to pass over to you for your beyond-the-diagnosis story.

Miranda: I was put on chemotherapy and immunotherapy. After the second dose, I started to feel quite unwell. My temperature had risen. My mum was really worried (because I lived with my mum). So I went to the GP. The GP was like, "Okay, let's just keep an eye on it," but by the time I got from the GP back home, my temperature had risen. Because I'm based at the Royal Marsden, and I called their out of hours, McMillan team, and they said, "Right, okay. The best thing is because you've recently had chemotherapy, come in, and we'll do some blood tests. We do two tests. We have the true score and then the new score. So if you're low on one of them, we would have just sent you home with antibiotics. But because you're low on both of the tests, we're going to keep you in."

Miranda: So I was like, "Right, okay. Another hospital stay, during the Bank Holiday as well." And I'm just in bed, just like, "Ooh, woe is me," feeling a bit sorry for myself. But luckily, I was only hospitalized for four days, and then they just said, "Look, just take things easy." And I was like, "Okay, I'm due to go and see to go to Buckingham Palace because I've won tickets with work to go to the Queen's Garden Party and I really can't miss it. I really want to go to Buckingham Palace. It's going to be so amazing." So I decided to just self-isolate, do not go out, just stay in my room, and stay in the house all the time. That's why I've been okay with this pandemic and staying indoors because I've had to do it in 2019. So last year, it was just like a breeze.

Miranda: Finally managed to get to work because I had another person who won tickets at work. So it was literally a 10-minute walk from where I worked to Buckingham Palace because we actually worked on Buckingham Palace Road. So, pretty handy. So walk there. It was really drizzly that day. I was wearing my mum's African print because I wanted to kind of represent the motherland and everything. And people were really appreciative. ‘Coz there's a dress code as well, and you have to wear a hat, but if you're really wearing a national costume and your national costume doesn't have a hat, you don't have to wear a hat. But I did wear a headpiece, which was amazing.

Miranda: Everyone was like, "Oh, where are you from? Are you from somewhere like Nigeria or like Sierra Leone or Ghana?" And I was like, "I'm from Ghana." So it was a real topic of conversation, so I really stood out. They had the afternoon tea, which was really lovely. Had salmon sandwiches, had Victoria sponge cake, which was really nice. Prince Harry had just got married. Had he just got married? No, he'd just had the baby. That's it. Because I had knitted something for the baby, and we’re all just on the grounds, and one of the bodyguards was like, "Excuse me, we want someone to talk to Princess Beatrice. She likes talking to young people. Would you mind talking to Princess Beatrice?" And we were like, "Oh, okay. Yeah, that's brilliant."

Miranda: I was chuffed because I was 37 at the time, and I was classed as being young. I was like, "Yes! She thinks I'm in my twenties. Yeah, brilliant." And so we had to have lessons and how to, is it genuflect, or how to bow and how to pronounce her name. You have to say, "Your Royal Highness," first of all, and then afterward, you have to say, "Ma'am, or mam, or whatever." So got talking and she was really lovely. She's really short. She was wearing heels, but I would say she was about 5' 2", something like that. And she has the most amazing jade eyes. She's got really big, bright eyes. That's what I really noticed. And she was really, really nice. She was like, "Oh, thank you for coming. It's really nice that you've made the effort to come here. Thank you for coming," and blah, blah, blah.

Miranda: I was like, "Oh, it was touch and go that I was going to come because I was actually hospitalized just before I was due to come here because I've just recently been diagnosed with secondary breast cancer." And she was like, "Oh my God, I'm so sorry to hear about it. I hope you're well enough to be here, and you've made the effort to come here, and I really appreciate that. It's really nice that you've made the effort." And then we had to go through Buckingham Palace to leave, and I had a big bag.

Miranda: And then I obviously didn't see Prince Harry... Well, I saw him from afar, but not enough to be able to give him... Because I knitted... He'd just had the baby, baby Archie. So I didn't have enough time to give him the knitted stuff. I'd knitted a hat and booties and mittens. So I talked to one of the staff, and the staff were like, "Okay, well, if you send it to Kensington Palace, then they'll get it." So, that's what I did, and then a month later, I got a card saying, "Thank you for sending baby Archie a gift," and I've got it in a nice frame. So, yay.

Alice: I love the stories that you hear about cancer patients who are just so determined to do things like go to Buckingham Palace. Mine was, after my mastectomy, I was just really determined to get home before the new series of Bake Off started.

Alice: Next up on AfterThoughts, we're going to be talking about the Invisible Impact. We all know the visible impacts, the things you see in the movies, hair loss, sickness, and weight loss, although many of us who've been on steroids would say it's weight gain. But we want to talk more about the invisible impacts, the things you can't see. So, Miranda, we're going to hand it over to you to hear a story about the invisible impacts of cancer.

Miranda: When you initially are given details about chemotherapy, and you have to sign off that you agree to have chemotherapy, they give you loads of literature to read over in terms of side effects and suchlike. It's a bit overwhelming at first because they give you a lot of paperwork. A lot of paperwork. So sometimes, you just get bogged down, and it's a bit of a fog. And obviously, you've been told a lot of things, a lot of information. It's a bit of information overload, so you're just bombarded by all this stuff, blah, blah, blah. And it's just like, "Right, I need to slow down, take things a bit easy." But you're going through all the literature. It goes through all the things that you should and shouldn't do, like you shouldn't eat grapefruit because it might react with the chemotherapy, and you're like, "Okay."

Miranda: And they're under different headers. One header is just Sex, and you're like, "Oh, all right. Okay. Let me look into that a bit better." Then it's like, "Okay, if you're in a loving relationship, there is a train of thought that basically, you should protect yourself because there might be some form of treatment that's in your vaginal or sperm fluid that could be passed on. So basically, you should be careful. Otherwise, the other person might develop flu-like symptoms." And I was like, "Oh. Right. That's something that I never really considered. And it's just there in black and white. Thank you for putting it down. I will think about that in great pleasure."

Miranda: So what I did was just let people know how my treatment was going because it was my first treatment. I said, "Oh, and by the way," on my Facebook, "By the way, if I have sex, I need to wear a condom because I could cause chemo dick or chemo cock." And people were like, "Right, okay. This is something we have never, ever considered." We always think about hair loss or tooth loss or losing your eyebrows, losing your eyelashes, that sort of thing. But it was good in a way because I was educating my friends, and they were like, "Oh, okay. I know you're making a joke out of it, but this is actually a serious issue."

Toby: Next up on AfterThoughts, we are going into the Those Around Us section, which is an opportunity for us to tell the story of the others who go through the experience of cancer with us. So, Miranda, I'm going to pass it over to you for your Those Around Us story.

Miranda: Well, I've always kind of been the type of person to offer advice anyway, regardless of cancer or not, but when a friend of mine was going through a divorce, and he felt like he couldn't tell me he was going through a divorce, and I was like, "Well, why do you feel that you have to be that way?" And he said, "Oh, well, you've got things going on which are really bad." And it's like, "Well, maybe I kind of need that distraction. And also, I'm still me. You can still come to me if you need to. I'll help you in any way I can." So obviously, when I got diagnosed, I was very open about it in order just to make sure that people knew, first of all, what I was going through. Two, to educate people and let them know signs to look for, and that sort of thing.

Miranda: So I kind of became a sort of conduit for the cancer. So when people had any issues, they would come to me, and they would ask things like, "Oh, I found a lump, or I found a rash. What shall I do?" I'll say, "Look, first of all, obviously, go to your doctor, blah, blah, blah," that sort of thing. And then a few people, like someone I went to university with, she contacted me, and she was like, "Oh, basically a good friend of mine, she's just been diagnosed. I really don't know what to do. Obviously, it's really distressing. She's really distressed. I don't want to show my distress to her. What should I do?" And I said, "Well, basically don't treat her as the cancer. She's still your friend. Treat her as your friend. Talk about what you used to talk about, like going to gigs or the man you used to fancy, that sort of thing, but also talk about the alternative in terms of, "Okay, how can I help her through this situation?" So doing things like offering to cook her a meal or do her cleaning."

Miranda: I think people want to help, but they don't know how to help. So I think being able to do something like that shows how much you love them and shows how much you care and shows how much they're in your thoughts. For me, and I've always said this, I've always wanted to turn this negative thing into a positive. I've had people private message me and say, "Thank you for letting me know about what you're going through. Now I double-check my breasts, or if someone talks about it, I'm able to give them a bit more advice. I feel I can go to my doctor more." That sort of thing. I feel good because I'm able to make that sort of impact on someone's life positively.

Miranda: Especially me being a queer black woman. I'm always talking about representation. Representation is key. People see me, and they'll think, "Oh, me too. Oh, I can identify with her because she's black, or she's bisexual, or she's from south London, or her parents are from Ghana." They can associate with that thing, and they have that connection and then think, "Oh, okay, if that's happening to her, then it's happening to me as well, and I can be a bit more open about things, or I can share things, or I can look into things a bit more." Because it really does make a difference in terms of impact, I think, being able to see yourself or see someone who looks like you and you think, "Oh, me too," that sort of thing. I think that is really underappreciated. That's another reason I'm so visible with social media and stuff and sharing my story because I want to show that it's not just a monolith. There are different layers. There are different colors. I think it's very, very important.

Alice: The next section on AfterThoughts is Lost Conversations. We're talking about so much more stuff with regards to cancer than we ever have before, but there are still some conversations that we aren't having. This section aims to shine a light on some of those things... some of the things that we aren't talking about that we should be. So, Miranda, I'm going to hand it over to you so that you can tell us about a lost conversation you wish we were having.

Alice: Just a note to say that Miranda talks quite a lot about secondary breast cancer here. So if this is a topic that might be sensitive for you, you might want to skip on through this section.

Miranda: I do a lot for Breast Cancer Now, and I did a campaign for them a few years back with Marks & Spencer's for their sportswear range, where they gave 10% of all sales to the charity. So the charity, on their social media, were following up on this, saying, "This is what we did in, I can't remember, 2017 or whatever. Basically, because of the type of cancer that Miranda has, a third of it comes back through recurrence or through secondary breast cancer." A few people on the thread took exception to this. So like, "I don't want to hear about this. This is ridiculous. I'm going through enough as it is. I don't want to hear about reoccurrence or secondary breast cancer." And I was like, "You know what? I'm going to take a beat, and I'm going to reply, and I'm not going to bash anyone. I'm just going to lay down the facts as they are."

Miranda: I was like, "Look, I'm not a model. This is me talking about my experience. The reality is when you're hormone-responsive, a third of it, it does come back." And they're like, "There should be a trigger warning," and I was like, "Okay, fair enough. Yes, there should be a trigger warning. And I've explained there should be one, and the charity should put a trigger warning on there. That's fine. But the reality is, this is what is happening. And you can't change that fact." They were like, "No, I don't want to read about it." And I was thinking, "Oh, okay. So you're on a breast cancer page, and you don't want to know about the statistics about breast cancer. Okay, that's a bit weird. Maybe you're sticking your head in the sand?"

Miranda: And the person was like, "No, I'm not sticking my head in the sand. How dare you say that? Blah, blah, blah." And I was like, "Look, at the end of the day, you might not want to hear it, but you're denying other people the opportunity to know the facts. And by you not wanting that to be there, that's not fair." I was like, "Look, I wish you well on your journey. I hope that you're well, and I hope that everything gets sorted out for you, but, at the end of the day, I'm here to educate people." And a lot of people actually were like, "Oh, thank you for letting me know. I had no idea this was a thing. I wasn't told about this."

Miranda: That's the thing. People aren't told about this. If I knew that having that cough for so long was a sign of the cancer coming back, I would probably have gone to the GP a lot sooner than I had done. And it's just knowing that information and being told that information. I think a lot of GPs either aren't aware or just don't have the time because they've only got 10 minutes to talk to each patient. It impacts a lot. I know there are charities like After Breast Cancer Diagnosis, ABCD, run by Jo Taylor, and she's got an info card that shows signs to look for and to know. I think we need that impact. People need to know, in order to help themselves and help other people.

Toby: Next on AfterThoughts, we have a new section called Not Your Average, which is for us to focus on the stories of young people who've had cancer, of a time that they might have gone through which somebody who has never experienced cancer will not have, and highlighting the differences in those lives. So Miranda, over to you for Not Your Average.

Miranda: I did the Great North Run, my first Great North Run, in 2014, which was a bit of a year because my dad had died. Actually, doing the half marathon was really good for my mental health. I actually came off antidepressants at the time. And then my dad died. He died in February; he was buried in June. I found the lump in July, got diagnosed in August. During that time, I was training to do the Great North Run, had a personal trainer. Still wanted to do it. So it's in my medical notes, I did the Great North Run, which was amazing because that was one of the questions they asked. They were like, "Okay, so you've got cancer. Have you got any questions?" And I was like, "Okay, so I've been trying to do a half marathon. Can I still do it?" And they were like, "You're a little bit crazy, aren't you? Okay. You seem to be fit, so you can still do it."

Miranda: That was on the Sunday. Did it in two hours, 32 minutes, 22 seconds. Still remember. That was on the Sunday. On the Monday, I came back from Newcastle, back to London. In that time I got a phone call saying, "Right. Okay. You can see the facility doctor on the Tuesday. There's a few issues that we need to talk about. Are you in a relationship?" I said, "No." He said, "Right, we need to talk about this, because of issues." And I was like, "Right. Okay." He said, "There might be an issue where you need to pay for funding." And I was like, "Right. Okay. So I'm being penalized for being single. Right. Okay. Let's talk about this on Tuesday." So saw the facility doctor on Tuesday. Bit weird. He was lovely. Had to have a camera shoved up my chuff while he looked at things.

Miranda: That's when I found out I've got polycystic ovary syndrome, because he was like, "Oh, your ovaries look a bit large. Yeah, you've got PCOS." And I was like, "Right, so as well as cancer, I've got PCOS. Great. Okay." They were like, "Okay, so we can extract your eggs, but because you've got PCOS, your cycle obviously isn't as regular as normal people. So we're going to have to wait about a month until we can extract the eggs and then have them frozen. Now, you've told us that you are single, you're not in a relationship at this moment in time. So we can extract the eggs, but they are more viable if they are fertilized. So you would have to pay for a sperm donor."

Miranda: I was like, "Right. Okay. That's fine. They don't come cheap or at all available on the NHS. That's fine." "We want to use the eggs. Then when you have them unfrozen, you would have to pay for that as well." And I was like, "Right. Okay. So if I was in a relationship, I wouldn't have to pay?" "No, you wouldn't have to pay." "So I'm basically being penalized for being single?" "Pretty much. Yeah." I was like, "Right. Okay, there's nothing I can do. That's how it is with your health authority." I mean, I could have asked for a second opinion, but there was a lot of things going on my mind at that moment in time. So I was like, "Right, okay. Let's just deal with that." That was on the Tuesday.

Miranda: I saw the oncology team on the Wednesday at the Royal Marsden, and they were like, "Okay. So we've had a look at your cancer. Your tumor is grade three, which is the worst type of tumor you could have. It's very fast growing. It's very aggressive. Basically, you should have had chemo last month. That's how bad your cancer is. So, there's not enough time." And I was like, "Right, okay. I've got to think about things now, rather than an alternative life. It's not Back To The Future with Biff owning BiffCo. I have to think about what's going on now, not an alternative. And what's going on now is I'm single. I'm not in a relationship. I need to think about how things are going to be impacted on me straight away. Think about the present."

Miranda: So I was like, "Right. Okay. There's not enough time to have any eggs frozen or extracted. Let's just go ahead with whatever you're doing." And they were like, "Okay, so it's Wednesday, today. We'll start chemo tomorrow on the Thursday." So from doing the Great North Run on the Sunday and then starting chemo on the Thursday, which was Thursday, September 11th, which is another great anniversary to have. And then I put that on my Facebook because people were like, "Oh, it's so great that you've done the Great North Run. You've done it in a great time. Oh, you're so amazing." And then I was like, "By the way, I've got cancer, and I'm having chemo today." And everyone was like, "What? You've just done a half marathon, and you're having chemo. What? What?"

Miranda: And I was like, "Yeah, I just wanted to keep things a bit quiet, and then just tell everyone, rather than just tell..." I've told a few select people because there are certain people that... best friends that I wanted to know. The fertility situation is difficult because.... obviously, my health trust has heavily cut IVF because they need to save money. It depends on where you are in the country because I'm in Croydon. It is a postcode lottery at the end of the day. And as well as that, it's being told that you're eligible for stuff. I know people who didn't even know it was an option. It was like, "Oh, I've got cancer. That's it. Having biological children is not an option." Fertility is an issue that cancer patients have to consider and think about that not necessarily other people would have to consider and take for granted.

Alice: And last up, as always, we are heading into the final section of AfterThoughts, which is Don't Laugh because, believe it or not, sometimes cancer can be funny. So Miranda, over to you to try and make Toby and I laugh with your Don't Laugh cancer story.

Miranda: Okay. I went to school with a friend of mine, so I've known her for nearly 30 years, has contacts at Channel Four. I was dealing with primary breast cancer, and she knew I was a massive fan of John Hamm, who is... We're actually going to get married. I've sorted it. I've spoken to the universe. It's all out there. We are getting married. It's happening. Don't worry about it, you will be invited to the wedding. She's got contacts in Channel Four. It was when Black Mirror was... They had an episode called White Christmas, and they were doing a press release. So she managed to get me into this press release room at Channel Four to watch it because she knew I was a massive fan of John Hamm because he was going to be there. So managed to get in, all done up.

Miranda: I'd just had chemo a week before, so I was completely bald. Had no hair, looked a mess, but I was like, "Look, John Hamm's going to be there. I'm going to drag myself out of my sick bed just to see John Hamm." So after he saw the viewing, he was about to walk off, and I'm like, "John. John." And he was like, "Oh, hello." And I was like, "Can we get a selfie?" And he was like, "Yeah, of course, just fine." And I was like, "Oh, you were really great in it. Basically, just to let you know, I'm bald because I'm going through cancer treatment, and I just had chemo a week ago." And he was like, "What are you doing here?" And I was like, "Well, I had to see you. I had to see you."

Miranda: He was like, "Oh. Okay. That's really great that you've made the effort to come and see me. That's lovely." And I was like, "Don't worry. It's not spread. They've caught it in time. It's all good." And he was like, "Oh, that's fantastic. That's fantastic news. I'm so happy for you." So then we got a selfie, and then I put it on Facebook. I put, "I've been busy tonight." And then all my friends were like... Like, "Oh my God, you met him. You met him." And I was like, "Uh, yeah, because we're getting married, obviously."

Toby: John Hamm, superfan. Yes.

Alice: Oh, my goodness.

Miranda: [crosstalk 00:39:28]. And he's better-looking in real life than he is in photos.

Alice: I love John Hamm, but I can't [crosstalk 00:39:36]-

Miranda: Not as much as I love him.

Alice: No, I'm sure. And also, you're getting married to him. So I should back off, really.

Toby: I'm really enjoying that use of the... Well, it is the cancer card, in a way, isn't it?

Alice: Oh, yeah. Definitely.

Toby: You can use those at certain points. I don't think anyone's used it as much to get John Hamm to marry them. Miranda, oh my word, thank you so much for bringing us a John Hamm moment. I love a John Hamm moment.

Alice: Oh, yeah. I love a John Hamm moment. But yes, thank you so much for joining us on AfterThoughts. It has genuinely been a pleasure, and we can't thank you enough for speaking so candidly and sharing your stories with us. It has been a real, real treat, and we are very grateful to you for your time, honesty, and humor. It's been fab to have you.

Miranda: Oh, thank you very much. It's been amazing. Love it.

Alice: Oh, great. Well, thank you so much, and we'll speak to you soon.

Toby: Thanks, Miranda.

Miranda: Take care. Bye-bye.

Alice: So, that was John Hamm's superfan, Miranda Ashitey.  

Toby: There we are. John Hamm superfan.

Alice: John Hamm superfan. It's really fun to say that, isn't it?

Toby: It is. That's why I'm really enjoying it, if I'm honest, Alice. It's great fun to say. Such a deep and insightful opportunity... No, I'm just going to say it again. Such a deep and insightful load of stories there, Alice, and I felt like Miranda really kind of let us in. We should note as well that Miranda had just had her second vaccination an hour before, right?

Alice: She had. She'd just had her second Pfizer jab, and she was still kind enough to show up and bring her whole self to the table, the AfterThoughts table, and tell us her stories. What a load of great stories they were. I loved that she went to the Queen's Garden Party in full Ghanaian dress. I think there was so much great stuff in there. Like the kind of information overload that you get when you are diagnosed with cancer. I mean, I don't know, did you get that when... In breast cancer circles, it gets called the Bible that you get given. Did you get given a lymphoma Bible?

Toby: There are lots of lymphoma books and things, but I can't... No, there was something I remember, some kind of booklet and stuff. Lots of fun-filled information, with lots of different side effects that could happen on there and things.

Alice: But seriously, Toby, downstairs, I've got a copy of the complete works of William Shakespeare, right?

Toby: Yeah.

Alice: It was my grandma's, and I kind of inherited it when she died, but the information that I got from Breast Cancer Care, as was, is now Breast Cancer Now, it's the same thickness as the complete works of William Shakespeare. In a folder, they just hand it to you like, "Hey, here you go. Here's everything you need to know about breast cancer." And you're just diagnosed. You're like, "What do I do with all of this information?" So I really, really resonated with that information overload that she was talking about there.

Toby: One of the things I felt like Miranda made so much... I'm sure what is inside something like those kinds of booklets and things actually... she made it so accessible with the stories of some of those things that she had experienced. That's why we focus on stories here in AfterThoughts. So I want to ask, what were your afterthought on today's episode?

Alice: My afterthought on today's episode of AfterThoughts was just the importance of... This is really, really important to me is the importance of educating primary breast cancer patients on the symptoms of secondary breast cancer. And yet, as a "primary breast cancer survivor," in inverted commas, it's not something you want to think about. You don't want to think about getting secondary breast cancer. Still, knowledge is power at the end of the day, and knowing the signs and symptoms of secondary breast cancer is so important. But at the end of the day, a lot of it does come down to educating yourself.

Alice: I only know the signs and symptoms of secondary breast cancer because I looked it up. And I think that the doctors and nurses, they're so stretched, they don't have the time to educate us as well as they would want to. So we have to educate ourselves. We look to people like Miranda, like Chris, and all of the other amazing campaigners and advocates out there who are doing all of this incredible work, but we have to educate ourselves. It's really important that the "primary breast cancer survivors," in inverted commas again, do that work so that they know what they're looking for, should they ever get sick again. I just think it's so important. Toby, what about you? What's your afterthought on this episode of AfterThoughts?

Toby: A lot of the things that Miranda was saying about awareness and raising awareness, particularly when you are the young person... you are the person that people know about who's had cancer like that being like... The calls I've had from friends of friends being like, "My cousin has just been diagnosed with Hodgkin's. Can you tell me a little bit about that," how often that happens, but also the fact of going... Sometimes that experience and those moments can help shape how you view the rest of your life. I was really taken by the conversation about fertility and the fact, again, of how little that is talked about in everyday life as well, and yet beyond cancer, is a big issue, like infertility rising in Western culture and things.

Toby: I think that it just, again, highlights those... We talked about it recently about the superpowers. Superpowers, I guess, makes it seem like it's really like happy, happy. Still, it's like the super awareness, I guess, of suddenly being given these powers to be able to see that there are things that might be different for people in their lives and being able to kind of build that empathy because of the fact of what you might have gone through yourselves or see other people going through.

Alice: Absolutely. And I think just to your point about the people who come to you and ask for help and advice and guidance, I think one of the most powerful things that people who haven't had cancer, who might be seeking that advice and guidance from people who have had cancer, one of the most powerful things I think those people can do, something that really moves me, actually, when people do it for me, is they can come to the person who's had cancer and just say, "Hey, I've got a question about cancer. I was just wondering if you have the space to answer it," before diving in to ask that question. I think that's a really kind thing to do.

Alice: When people do that to me, I'm more than happy to answer questions about cancer, but people respecting my boundaries in that way, I think it's a really generous thing to do. So I would just say if you ever need to ask someone who's had cancer a question, if you're a person who hasn't had cancer, always just say to them, "Have you got the energy, have you got the space, have you got the time to answer this question for me?" I think that's a really important thing.

Toby: Have you had the ding on your... Normally, for some reason, it's Facebook because it's like the old way I used to have a conversation with friends. It's something you're like, "Oh, this old friend who I've not spoken to for a long time, suddenly messaging me out of the blue. I think I know what this is about."

Alice: Yeah. You always know when you see a name pop up that you haven't seen for years, you're like, "Oh, this is going to be a cancer-related question." You always know, don't you?

Toby: But that's the importance of being able to comfortably talk about your own experiences, and keep having conversations, and telling stories. That's what we're here for in AfterThoughts. And it has been another incredible episode.

Alice: What an episode.

Toby: Thank you so much to everybody who's tuned in, and we look forward to sharing another episode with you very soon.

Alice: Very, very soon. And I look forward to hopefully eating an Easter egg that is the size of my torso.

Toby: Good luck.

Alice: Bye, everyone.


If todays episode of AfterThoughts has brought up any thoughts or feelings that youd like to speak to someone about, we really recommend grabbing a cuppa with a friend, or dropping them a message.

There are also tons of charities out there who can help you if you’ve been through cancer and need a bit of extra psychological support.

Thanks so much to Trekstock for supporting another series of AfterThoughts. Trekstock helps young adults diagnosed with cancer to get moving again after cancer stops them in their tracks, and the work they do is incredible. Find out more at

This series of AfterThoughts was created in partnership with Life Effects by Teva - an initiative shaped by patients, for patients, to help those with chronic illness live better days. Find out more and read articles written by those living with and beyond cancer at


Cancer, Telling It Like It Is, and Marrying Jon Hamm

Listening time | 48 mins 46 secs

In today's AfterThoughts episode (recorded just before Easter in 2021), hosts Alice-May Purkiss and Toby Peach are joined by Miranda Ashitey.

In 2019, Miranda was diagnosed with secondary (also known as metastatic) breast cancer after being admitted to A&E with fluid in her lungs and heart. Since her secondary diagnosis, Miranda has done lots of work with the UK charity Breast Cancer Now, including a collaborative campaign with Marks & Spencer.

She wants everyone to have access to the facts – even facts that may be uncomfortable or upsetting. It's not to spread fear, she clarifies, but to spread the truth and awareness.

In this podcast episode, Miranda talks about going to Queen Elizabeth II's Garden Party and knitting booties for Prince Harry's son, Archie. She also details upsetting discrimination when she tried to freeze her eggs, how she ran a half-marathon the day before treatment, and why Mad Men's Jon Hamm is her promised future husband.


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