Michelle Heaton: ’If my daughter has the BRCA2 gene I’ll blame myself’
The past six years have been anything but easy for Michelle Heaton. After discovering she carried the BRCA2 gene in 2012, Liberty X singer Michelle made the difficult decision to a have a double mastectomy and a hysterectomy to reduce her chances of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
However, along with the heartbreaking lows, Michelle’s had some amazing highs – most notably, the births of her children Faith and AJ, now six and four.
Only, the hysterectomy means Michelle, 38, started going through menopause almost a decade earlier than most women – a battle she’s written about in her new book Hot Flush: Motherhood, the Menopause and Me.
When Now meets Michelle at London’s Charlotte Street Hotel to talk about her journey, it’s not long before the tears are flowing. Michelle reveals with striking honesty her regrets, how the menopause has gripped her life and, heartbreakingly, why she’ll always blame herself if Faith ends up on the same path.
Hi, Michelle. You’ve been very honest in the book but were you worried about revealing so much?
Oh God, yes! When I read it back in its entirety while recording the audiobook, I thought, ‘I don’t know if I should’ve been this open.’ There are things I’ve said to my husband [Hugh Hanley] and the children that make me sound like a horrible person, and I was like, ‘I don’t even like me hearing this, so how are people reading the book going to react?’
Why do you think the menopause makes you
act like that?
When I had my hysterectomy, I had an HRT implant to help balance my hormones as best as possible, because I was so young. But it’s synthetic, so it’s never going to be 100% what my body needs. It’s trial and error, and every six months, I have a new implant. Towards the end, I get really low and it’s very apparent.
How has Hugh been through it all?
Whenever I get into those rages, I think it’s the last one he’s going to put up with. It’s not every day, but how much can someone tolerate? Hugh has his own chapter [in the book] and he recorded his words for the audiobook. When he did, there were things I saw from his point of view for the first time.
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Did the book help him realise anything about what you’re going through?
It made him realise I needed more support, not that he hasn’t been amazing. But the thing with men in a relationship with a woman going through the menopause is that they’re never going to experience it. It takes a level of understanding and calmness to deal with the way some women are affected.
When did the severity of your operations really hit you?
It wasn’t until I had AJ and he nuzzled into my breast to feed that it really hit me that I couldn’t provide for him. That was probably one of the darkest moments I’ve had – seeing a newborn baby wanting something that I couldn’t give him. Then six weeks later, he got meningitis, and it was suggested it was because he hadn’t had the right nutrients from breast milk. I blamed myself.
Will you ever get to a point where you realise you’re not responsible for any of this?
No. If Faith has the BRCA2 gene I’ll blame myself. She’s aware of everything I’ve been through, but doesn’t know she might have the gene. She knows I’ve had operations and I have scars, and that I can’t have more kids. But she’s started to ask why. That’s where the book ends, but how do you answer that?
Hot Flush: Motherhood, the Menopause and Me is out on 3 May
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