About me

So if snow closes Heathrow or someone famous is arrested, that could be me you see on the telly standing somewhere outdoors talking about it.

I’m a BBC correspondent for the national news but I haven’t always been based in London.

After surviving cancer eleven years ago, I came up with my List for Living. The things I’d always wanted to do. I decided I wanted to work abroad instead of just dreaming about it.

I finished chemo and within weeks later I was in Moscow.

From war and revolution to pork fat covered in chocolate, I spent almost seven years reporting on all sorts of stories as a BBC foreign correspondent. It was an amazing adventure.

I came back to Britain because I missed my friends and family. I also wanted a more normal life. And that was what I was trying to do until I was diagnosed with cancer for the second time.

I spent almost a year fighting the stupid disease and blogging all the way. I thought I’d won but I was wrong.

Now I’m living with the stupid cancer. I’m not terminally ill but it will kill me. I have months, maybe a few years left. To make the most of that time, I have a new List for Living.

73 thoughts on “About me

  1. Good luck, Helen. Your attitude and spirit seem incredibly powerful and that’s a huge part of the battle. Give it heaps and stay strong xx

  2. I remember you beating this the first time and funny and good humored you were. Also tough. Glad to see you haven’t changed. x

  3. All the best to you Helen. Here’s to you making it Helen 2 Cancer Nil as soon as you can. Chris

  4. Hey doll, you’ve been in my thoughts since I heard the news of your impending treatment. Your tenacity and positive attitude will see you right. Missed not seeing you at netball this evening, I was a pain-in-the-@rse grump! Glad you have this blog. I wish you love, hope and strength. Xxx

    • I have some pretty ropey pictures of you, Helen and Becky in schoolgirl outfits at the British Embassy Dacha in Kiev!! Great pictures, great outfits, great night! x

  5. Wishing you all the very best, keep looking forward – every step forward is a step away from the cancer. Big hug (p am a friend of Sarah Burns!)

  6. Hey, Hellen!

    Please stay positive, think of white lion cubs, burek, laughter and all the love you have generated in the strangest places of the globe. Hugs&kisses!

  7. Hi Helen

    Have been reading your blogs – I know you’ve moved wards and are making progess. Everyone is thinking of you – much love

    Louise x

  8. Hi Louise
    Thank you for the news of Helen – I had been wondering how things were going :)

  9. My heart goes out to you.
    I have been there – holding my wife’s hand, thru cancer treatment in 2002 and again in 2007. I know just how awful it can be, albeit my experiences are standing side-by-side with my darling wife.
    Live long and live strong.


  10. Hi Helen

    I have read your blog and tried not to cry. Not for me, but at your sheer courage and determination. I really hope your treatment goes well and you make a full recovery. This year I’m running for Macmillan – and we’ll run for you.

    Wishing you and your loved ones the very best,

    Jemma (one half of the 200 mile madness :-) )

  11. My darling Helen, I have just read your blog and caught up with all your news. I can’t believe all that’s happened since we last spoke.

    I want you to know that we’re all rooting for you and sending you great big bear hugs and huge mountains of love.

    You can fight this cancer and great things are still to come for you, we’re here for you if you need us.

    with love from Julia, James, Freya & Scott xxxx

  12. Helen, your smile is a lot wider and bigger than the pain you describe so strikingly. My own mum is going exactly through the same second “hit” right now. Hang in there and take care! M

  13. Helen, we’ve only met a few times and spoken about the suitability of Russian men — for you not me I hasten to add. I am really sorry to hear about your renewed battle against a foe that refuses to go away. I’m so rootin for you.

  14. After being through stage 4 myself – and beating it — I doff my cap to you. Inspirational. Not sure I could do it again. In fact pretty sure I couldn’t. Stay strong John

  15. Lovely blog Helen!
    If you ever have a downer, remember the film Shallow Hal. No matter what you feel like, or worry about wigs or eyebrows, please believe you and your story are beautiful to us sufferers and others.
    Good luck………………and in case you wondered, yes, I’m Carolyn’s brother.
    Keep enjoying the cakes!

  16. Good luck with your fight Helen. I’ve just read your last blog entry and you sound like the sort of person who will take it by the horns and live life to the full.

  17. Helen, I’m pretty sure I operated your locked-off camera for you at the Eurovision Song Contest in Helsinki in 2007. I was there covering the Scooch entry for BBC North and you were doing live inserts into World. I volunteered to pan your camera from you to a guest but I was very drunk and not at all sure I did a very good job. I’m almost certain it was you but stand to be corrected and am prepared to get me coat.

  18. Hi helen, if you have a couple of minutes please look at my dear late wifes blog about her last few months with her fight against cancer. Its a horrible thing to go through, but it can be positive.

    All the best

  19. Helen, it distresses me untold to learn of your illness. It is so sad to know that a person with so much to offer this world; may be given so little time to accomplish her dreams. I hope that somehow there’s a stroke of luck that will change things for the better. I truly believe that you can and will beat your cancer. Best from Alvin (Western Australia)

  20. Just heard you on the radio – brave lady. I have breast cancer and after ten years have been told I’m now OK and off the pills….I also had a large cyst on my ovary and had them removed two years ago to be sure – thank goodness I was clear there. So all in all, apart from being one-boob-less….I am fine and like you I made my bucket-list and the main thing for me is running. I ran the London Marathon a month after being diagnosed in 2003 and am about to embark on my 6th marathon in April. I’m hoping I stay clear and I’m wishing you all the luck in the world. Keep happy when you can.x

  21. I heard you on R2 today, Helen. You are totally inspiring despite being so (bleep) unlucky! Go enjoy your life list #2 as soon as you can – and I hope your luck turns and we see you still enjoying it at 74! Wishing for you and your loved ones x

  22. Dear Helen, heard you on the radio this morning with Vanessa Feltz. Truly inspiring stuff. Really good luck with your treatment. I feel that your positivity must have a really good
    effect on this monster disease. May he shrink, and may the force be with you! X Lisa

  23. Your courage is inspirational, and positivity just encouraging. I hope you can overcome this horrid disease. The human body and mind is an amazing thing, sending you much love and positive throughts. Claire x

  24. Helen, glad I found this and it’s a privilege to following you on here. You have a wonderful and inspiring spirit. Keep going girl, lots of love – Lorraine, Northamptonshire

  25. Helen, Only heard your news when I heard you on the Today prog this morning. Love the idea of your list for living. If you need a mad memory to take your mind off the chemo etc, remember New Year’s Eve 07 in Sarajevo. Sending you huge hugs, Victoria xxx

    • Hey Victoria, thanks so much. It’s really lovely to hear from you. Yes that has to be the best New Year’s Eve EVER!!!!! Hahahah :) Lots of love xxx

  26. Hello Helen, I heard your news listening to NPR News here in Boston, Massachusetts, then I decided to Google your name and read about you. Your writings on your blog gave me thoughts. I am impressed by the courage you demonstrate in the face such a terminal case. You must be a strong woman. I praise God for you, Helen.

    I read your “My List for Living.” Would you please allow me to add something to that list? “Get a New Testament” and read it. You might have heard of Jesus Christ. He knows what you are going through now. He knew pain, suffering and still bears in His body the marks of His suffering. He is however alive and can come along you if you ask Him.

    He can give you hope for life on the other side of the shores of eternity. I invite you to please consider talking to Him. Thank you and may God’s mercy be shown to you, Helen!

  27. Hi Helen, I’ve just learned about this listening to ‘The Food Programme’ on R4. Maybe you’ll remember me – I was teaching at the British Council in Kyiv in 2004. I’m absolutely with you heart and soul – all my love and prayers going out to you. You’re strong and I know that you will continue to put as much life into your years as possible xxx

    I love the list for living! Keep going! Keep strong!
    lots of love, Caroline

  28. Hi Helen, I just thought I’d add a wee note to say I hope you’re doing fine and enjoying the Chemo holiday. Hopefully you’re typing up another entry on your List for Living having completed another challenge.

  29. Hello Helen, I’ve just read some of you blog… I hope you don’t mind me contacting you, I had cancer myself 5 years ago. I’m a graphic designer working on a personal project called milestoneforcancer to make more people aware…

    I ‘m looking for stories and comments from people to be used in a publication – stories from anyone who may have been touched by cancer in some way. Whether it may be someone battling with terminal illness, or those who have faced a near death experience, or, indeed, those who have lived against the odds.

    Would you like to contribute? please get in touch if you do. Many thanks, Paul.

  30. Hi Helen, I worked with you one day at BBC in 2011, I was just looking at a piece on my reel and googled you name and saw this site, and I am very sad to hear of your sickness. The ‘List for Living’ is inspiring stuff, also great pics.

  31. Dear Helen – I know I should have kept updated with life on Planet Fawkesy but I didn’t (you know how rubbish I am with watching TV). But then the lovely Liz mentioned you at the weekend and I found your blog. And I wondered if you wanted that game of netball soon?! much much love Gill xxxx

  32. Pingback: Cancer online: Finding support on the internet | The Cyber Psyche

  33. Hello Helen,
    I have great admiration of the way you are dealing with your cancer and pray you will have many more years of remission. In your latest blog you say you are constantly exhausted, I have a box that I use for pain and it has a setting for energy, I have found it has given me great energy over the last six years. If you would be interested in knowing more about it please feel free to contact me.

  34. Hi Helen. I just dropped by to check on your progress and was saddened to see that you’re having to fight another battle. It shouldn’t happen to anyone, and I’m sure the fact that you are better equipped than almost anyone to fight this evil wretch doesn’t make it any easier for you to bear, either. But your spirit is indomitable and your writing inspirational. Keep up the good fight; you have many supporters and followers cheering you on and taking strength from your own battles. I hope that gives you some strength in turn.

  35. Dear Helen,
    I saw your article on BBC. I adore your perspective on the list for living rather than the bucket list. I saw that number 32 on your list was flying on a trapeze. I am part of a recreational trapeze club in Denver, Colorado known as the Imperial Flyers. http://www.imperialflyers.org . We fly year round (weather dependent) and new comers are always welcome. There is a direct flight from London to Denver on British Airways I believe daily. If there is someway I can help you achieve this goal, please let me know. If Denver is not a possibility, our group has many contacts with a lot of trapeze rigs world wide. I am sure we could find you a rig to swing off of nearby if Colorado is too far away. If our rig is a possibility, please let me know, I would be happy to coordinate a visit. From Denver, you would be 2.5 hours to Wyoming. Why you might ask, would that matter? I say that because I saw looking at the stars as one of your list for living items. I have never seen better stars at night than Wyoming or Australia. I wish you all the best in your list for living endeavors!

    Kind Regards,

  36. Hello Helen, we met once at a British Embassy function in Sarajevo. I am sure you wouldn’t remember but our meeting stuck in my head. The weather was atrocious and you’d been broadcasting in a blizzard without a hat or scarf. We were laughing about how cold you’d looked, all to fit BBC protocols on appearance. You really didn’t seem bothered, your laugh was genuine and there was a kindness and humanity about you that left a memory with me that has lasted for a decade. I admire how you have seized the initiative back. You have inspired me to re-do my own list for living. I hope you have many years of remission and can get all your list done, and I wish you the very best in your robust and enthusiastic afirmation of living.

  37. Helen, an inspiring story. I really hope you succeed in fulfilling your dreams. Don’t talk about cancer as yours, it shows you’re taking ownership of it, as if it belongs to you in some way. It doesn’t own you and you don’t own it. It’s there and your job is to get it rid of it and I encourage you to devour as much personal development material as you can, every waking moment. Read everything available and listen to audios. The internet is awash with some fantastic information to turn any adversity on its head.

    Good luck on your journey

  38. Hi, I’m not a blogger but a tweet about yours popped up on Twitter and I followed link to your blog and read it and I really admire your crystal clear and also kick-ass tone!!

  39. Helen I think your life blog is truly inspiring. Like you I have suffered – I was diagnosed with OVC three years ago. For now I am well, have been through all the horrid treatment, and come out the other side! For now – I live for today, because like everything in life tomorrow may not come!

    I live in Cyprus – the treatment has been fantastic, but I am into positive thinking and prayer, and I know that keeps me going! I understand CA125’s so well! I was stage 3 as well! Here’s to you living for many years to come – !! Keep loving, living, and enjoying!

  40. Good luck with your fight. I still remember you being based in Kiev and reporting on the Orange Revolution in Ukraine when I was courting my wife who is from Odessa.

  41. Hello Helen.
    I’m Daniel from Rio de Janeiro – Brazil.
    Just heard about you today on the internet.
    Hope and Glad if I can help you to complet something from your list. Hope I can meet you in 2016 on Olympics here!

    Good luck.

  42. Hello Helen,

    i’m Mariana, i’m from Brazil. I don’t know who you are. I have never heard about you before.
    I have read your story on a website.
    Helen, i wish i have more words to say to you, but i speak and write in English not very well.
    But i have here a message from a very special friend:

    “Helen, i want to tell you i love you. I love who you are. I love your life, I love your smile. And I love to be by your side. And i want to suggest one more item in your list: To have a very real and deep experience with God. You can call me now, and i will hear you, i will walk with you, and i will leave you HOME at the right time.” – Jesus.

    This is not a joke, this is not a spam. I never sent this message to no one before.
    This message is specially to you.
    I am at your disposal if you want to talk.
    God bless you.

  43. Hi, I am currently writing a book called the bucket guide. It’s a guide to living life to the full. I read your article in the daily mail today with interest and wondered if I might be able to speak to you further. Your story is definitely an inspirational one not just to women suffering from cancer but to all of those who face the challenges of life.

    Look forward to hearing from you.

    Kind regards,

    Dave Hawkins

  44. Well done with your brilliant article in the Daily Mail on Saturday. You are a great inspiration to others and a true Fawkes! We wish you well x

  45. Hi Helen! I’m a 22 years old student from Tuscany and I’m here because I have heard your story from an italian journalist, Daria Bignardi, who has written it on her weekly column on Vanity Fair Italia: http://barbablog.vanityfair.it/2013/10/22/grazie-helen-per-ricordarci-quello-che-conta-davvero/ – “Thak You Helen to remind Us what really matters”

    I just want to say to You that I hope You will put “DONE” at least on the major part of your list, good luck!

    The stars in the tuscan countryside are so visible and seem so shining, after Pompei and Rome, come here and sleep under them! ;)

    A Hug from Italy

  46. Hi Helen,

    I really enjoyed listening to you on Radio Four, and afterwards read your list for life. I noticed that one of them was tat you would like to exhibit your cow photos (21). I work in a small independent artist run gallery (Ellerington Fine Art) in Leicester, and after New Year we have room for such an exhibition. If you are interested please contact me.

    Good luck with completing your List for life,


  47. Hi Helen, I was thinking about you earlier today and realised it’s been a few weeks since your last addition to your blog and I was wondering how you were getting on? (as I’m sure lots of us are!). Hope you’re doing well and still managing to complete items on your list regularly. Best wishes.

  48. Hi Helen….it’s sam from Shine and Ovacome….checked back to see if you had got your results….really pleased for you….hope house is coming along and will soon have a puppy in it

  49. You are an inspiration to all of us who moan about a few aches and pains lol Olive nee Fawkes

  50. Hello Helen, Haven’t heard from you for a while and I’ve been thinking about you. I hope all is good and worry is at manageable levels. Enormous hugs, Rudy

  51. As above, hope your lack of posts here is because you are getting on with enjoying yourself rather than something less pleasant. Best wishes.

    • I echo what Nick says Helen. It’s been a while. Hopefully you’re just to busy ticking off items on list.

  52. Hi Helen. I was at school with you, only I was Jenny Hale back in those days. Just wanted you to know I’m thinking of you and sending all good thoughts your way and really, really hoping that the present round of chemo settles enough soon to get you back to your list. Massive, massive love xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  53. Hi Helen, praying that you would know peace and joy through all the battles and that God would give you strength to go on. May you know Christ in the sufferings. Love and blessings, Iso. xx

  54. Helen I’ve just discovered your blog – I love the idea of a list for living — something we all ought to have as we none of us know how long we’ll get of this precious life.

    Enjoy working your way through, and continuing adding to it as and when the inspiration comes! And thanks for taking time to inspire the rest of us to live more joyfully and appreciate our time on earth too. Sarah

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