My job is so varied. I am a presenter, filmmaker and a writer. I tell stories about animals. Animals are in my blood – my father was a keen amateur naturalist and so was his father.
If I feel stressed and go for a walk in the woods or by the sea and immerse myself in nature it has the ability to really calm me down.
I found out I had cancer while shooting a nature series around England. I was essentially an animal midwife, watching animals give birth on camera – it was life happening before my eyes. It was a really positive thing to be working on alongside something that was a stark reminder of my own mortality.
My doctor told me that for some women having breast cancer could be a positive experience in some ways. I remember looking at him and thinking: ‘How on earth could that be true?’ But I came to understand that he was right: it forces a shift in your behaviour. In my 20s and 30s, I loved to party. I loved to drink, smoke and have a good time. Getting cancer at 45 marked an end to that. Three years later I run every day, I meditate and I do yoga. I’m a lot healthier than I was in my later 30s.
I spent most of my time worrying. When I became ill, it became clear you don’t have to. I could see these two paths and I was determined to be as positive as I could and, to be honest, it wasn’t as hard as that sounds.
Being around animals a lot of the time definitely releases oxytocin and relaxes you. Gardening has also helped me. It’s the connection with nature that I find meditative – tending and looking after my vegetables. I’ve just bought a cottage in Hastings. There are allotments nearby with a sea view and that for me is the ultimate of happiness.
The National Garden Scheme and Macmillan Cancer Support are encouraging people living with cancer to get active through gardening (macmillan.org.uk)