Alongside thousands of listeners, LMC is avidly tuning in to Radio 4’s PM, every Monday, to catch up on Steve Hewlett’s frank and honest account of his current cancer treatment. Over the past few months, Steve, R4’s long standing host of The Media Show, has been talking to PM’s Eddie Mair about being diagnosed in March with stage four cancer of the oesophagus, and what he is learning from his experience as an NHS patient.
In the most recent broadcast, Steve updated listeners on his recent admission to hospital for pneumonia and the resulting delays in his wait to join a clinical trial. He reflected briefly on the emotions involved in waiting for treatment, and said poignantly; “waiting for a trial is quite a trial – a test”.
The audience response to the interviews has been was huge, with listeners calling in to share their own stories of “navigating” their way through a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment.
Hewlett’s illness was not a secret among colleagues, but the impact of his decision to go public and talk on air about his medical journey was to give him the second big shock of his year, and this one was much more welcome.
“The size of the response has been amazing,” he told the Observer. “Hundreds of people are in touch. My social media followers went up by a thousand, for a start. People say I am brave about cancer, but I am just realistic. I have my moments, of course, when I well up.”
Hewlett suspects the strength of the public reaction is due to the rarity of hearing a couple of men just talking in a relaxed way about cancer.
Now, in a chatty style, punctuated by his trademark phrase “to cut a long story short”, he has offered his listeners a down-to-earth assessment of his prospects, with honest reactions to his treatment, from details of his chapped hands and feet to his use of a cold cap to try to prevent major hair loss during chemotherapy.