We’re watching as Georgie Crawford laughs and manages to perfect the perfect shot, with her husband Jamie and their adorable puppy Piper. Not to mention the gorgeous shots we snap of herself and their sweet little girl Pia (3).
It’s a lovely day, the sun is streaming into their beautiful home, and Georgie’s equally fabulous mum Siobhan pops by so we even manage to ask her to jump in for more picture perfect moments. If you were looking from the outside in you wouldn’t have a clue that this gorgeous little family had ever experienced so much as a blip. But they have.
We’re chatting to Georgie today almost two years since the fateful day she found a lump in her breast and was later diagnosed with breast cancer. A moment that changed her life forever. But here she is today, sitting before us having come through some of her darkest days, the picture of health. In fact she’s glowing.
Very on brand as the creator of the beloved The Good Glow podcast, something that came out of a really trying time and went on to capture the hearts of the nation with its messages of encouragement on just how strong we as humans are, what we can overcome, and to remember to put ourselves on top of our own to-do list. And Georgie has managed to do just that, making the huge decision earlier this year to go with her gut and leave her job of ten years in radio.
Now she focuses on her health, her family, her podcast (it’s going live this month!) and her work as ambassador for Fitbit UK and corporate speaker for VHI Ireland. And while she has managed to pop herself higher on her own to-do list, she is also utterly passionate about others and advocating for us to remember to check ourselves.
She’s just one of those people you gravitate towards. You can’t help it. She’s lovely, inspiring and gives us all a real boost when it comes to navigating the most difficult of times. We sit down to find out about the day that changed her life, coming through the hardest of times to blossom into the happiest healthiest version of herself.
Georgie thank you for sitting down with VIP. We have to begin by taking you back to the day that changed your life, the day you found a lump.
We had only moved into this house about six weeks before, so in the week leading up to me finding a lump in my breast we got Pia christened and we had this beautiful house, a beautiful baby, and it was really like new beginnings. I tried to be really positive as I waited for my results but I just knew that it was cancer. When I found out that I was right, I suppose we just rallied the troops. That was the day of “Yes ok now I have my diagnosis, let’s deal with it.”
And of course you were on your maternity leave as well. You had just brought a little human into the world and your world was completely shaken.
I didn’t feel well. I just didn’t feel right. On reflection it was so obvious that I was sick but at the time I was thinking maybe I am feeling off because I’ve just had a baby. When I look back at pictures of that time… I look so different. Now I always trust my gut.
Now you are a passionate advocate for checking ourselves regardless of age because you at 32 were (and still are) so young.
Yes. Breast Cancer in the under 50s is becoming more and more common so if you go into them with a lump they are going to send you to the Breast Clinic to get it checked. But its the people around you who may try to reassure you, “No you’re too young, you’re fine.” But if that little voice in the back of your head is telling you that something isn’t right, as scary as it is to face it, you will never regret it because early detection saves lives. It’s just really important to address things and face them head on. I found the lump on the Thursday morning, the following Tuesday I was told I had breast cancer.
How important has support of your family and friends been?
When I think back to my time of having cancer, I don’t think of the cancer, I think of all my friends and family carrying me through it. I have an amazing family and my husband Jamie has an amazing family. It’s one of the things I always loved about him is that he was just as close to his family as I was to mine. So we really went on lockdown with the two families, and then my best friends Audrey and Rebecca were amazing. Jamie arranged this night in the back garden when the chemo finished and we all let balloons off in the garden to mark the end of chemo and the new chapter for me. Support and the human connection, I can’t say how much it helped me.
Speaking of human connection… before all this happened, you were on social media but you didn’t really use it in the way you do now? From this, you just began sharing online.
I think it was about eight weeks in that I began sharing on Instagram. I wanted to really know where I stood with my cancer before I told people that I had cancer, I had my surgery and it was confirmed that my cancer was not in my lymph nodes and I said to Jamie, “I think I am ready to say it.” The more I thought about it… there was no breast cancer in my family, I breast fed, I didn’t really think breast cancer could happen to women under 50. I felt like it was my duty to warn my friends to check their breasts. So I wrote a post for Instagram and I got such an amazing reaction. Then the day before chemo, I knew I was going in to lose my hair, and that my first Christmas with my baby was also my first Christmas with cancer. And I just hopped on to Instagram Stories and said, “Look I am going to keep on a brave face, I am starting my first Christmas with cancer and I am putting everything in it, I am going to be back and I will feel like myself again one day.” I went into chemo the next day and 10,000 people followed me overnight and I felt like I was going in to that oncology unit with an army of support. It was just hundreds of messages from people telling me to keep going and stay strong and it was lovely.
And so you just flung yourself into it.
Yes. And Jamie my husband was my absolute rock through this. Every night when I put Pia to sleep the tears would flow and he would always just bring me back to the facts because he was in all the meetings with my doctor, so he would say, “Your cancer hasn’t spread, you are getting your chemotherapy. You are going to get radiotherapy,” just saying those things to me really helped me get through it. He would always acknowledge when I felt sad. It wasn’t like he would say, “Oh you will be fine don’t worry.” It was like “Ok turn off the tv and sit down and tell me what’s wrong.” He could see on my face when I was going to that dark place. And when he would go to work my Mum was with me and we would go out for walks every single day. I can’t tell you how much nature and the outdoors did for my mental health at that time.
We’re in your beautiful home today. This environment must have been very important when you were recuperating?
Yes so when I was in recovery, Pia was still napping during the day. I would have two hours everyday where I would just have complete silence. I would always take a few minutes to sit outside or sit in her room when she was sleeping and just connect with myself and try make sense of it all. I just looked at it like, “This is the place that I am going to get better.”
And get better you did. From your first insta- story to launching The Good Glow, a hugely successful podcast. Tell us about this?
It was October 2018, I had finished treatment, it was the week after I went back to work in 98fm and I was sitting at my desk and my phone vibrated with yet another message; all these amazing women supporting me telling me that they had overcome cancer and I just thought, “Jeez how lucky am I that I shared my story because I got these reassuring messages all the time from people to say, you will laugh again. You will be happy again, it just takes time.” And then I started to think of people who suffer in silence, and who are maybe at home and scared. So I said “How can I reach these people, how can I share these amazing stories with them to let them know to keep going?” and that’s when the idea of a podcast came to me. And I knew that I wanted the word glow to be in it, for me that represented all it is to be glowing and healthy and alive. So we came up with the idea of getting inspirational people on to tell their stories of overcoming.
And for people who may not have listened to The Good Glow, it’s not solely about cancer or illness, it’s about navigating whatever life throws at us.
Yes and I think we all have amazing stories to tell. I had the amazing Jenny Miller on who adopted a baby from Sri Lanka, Sinead Hingston who went on to get married again after losing her husband on their honeymoon and Ciaran Byrne who is just an amazing guy who was burning the candle at both ends and got leukaemia and has now transformed his entire life. He is one of the most inspirational people I have ever met.
It is a mix of people from all walks of life. Is there a stand-out?
I think when I had Dr Doireann O’Leary who came on and spoke about having cervical cancer and everything she went through. That was a moment for me when I thought, “Whoa, I have a community where people know they can come on to my podcast and tell their story and they won’t get trolled, they will get supported. It’s kind of almost self-care listening to a podcast, it’s your you-time”.
Has it changed your life?
I feel incredibly lucky to be able to say this because I know how everyone’s cancer journey is different. For me it has allowed me to walk away from my job in radio, to focus on the podcast, which also gives me so much more time with my baby Pia, but I do know how lucky I am to have been able to come through it.
That was a huge decision to walk away from a job you’d been doing for ten years.
I don’t think there is a lot of support for people who have had cancer and gone back to work and for me I really struggled. I was very lucky that my colleagues were so supportive but deciding to leave was the best thing that I ever did. The universe was pulling me in that direction and I listened.
This whole experience has highlighted to you what’s important…
It’s like going from existing to living. I wake up every day and I say, “Mondays aren’t so bad when you have beaten cancer.” I wake up everyday and I just want to be happy and I am blessed that the podcast has given me the time to build my own brand and my own company which has been a dream come true.
We have to talk about Pia, the light of your life. How has her being here helped you through?
I always say I woke up every day with a smile on my face because she was the first person I saw. I never had a duvet day, I wanted to be the best mum I could be to her so I was going outside and bringing her to the park and for walks twice a day; it was an absolute tonic for me. I was so blessed to have a little one who helped me get out of bed.
And do you ever think you will stop your work as an advocate? It must also dredge up really difficult memories for you?
I work a lot with Breast Cancer Ireland and I think being that close to that charity and seeing the work that goes into finding a cure and to feel so connected with women who have been through the same is all really positive. People often ask me do I want to leave it all behind and I don’t know is the answer. My focus now is just to keep raising awareness and spreading that message to check yourself.
And something that began in recovery and has become a huge part is running and marathons?
Yes. [Laughs] I have done three 10k runs. I started off with the park runs and worked my way up. This month Jamie and I are doing a run in the alps… a 10k in the snow so that is our next big challenge. And becoming a Fitbit ambassador was a huge moment, to grow from someone who hated exercise to it now being such a huge part of my life is amazing!
And what else is on the cards?
2020 is going to be a great year for The Good Glow as we are going to get out and take The Good Glow live and obviously I will keep up all the fitness and set myself challenges every month.
So really nourishment and wellness and putting yourself at the top of your own to-do list has become of the utmost importance to you?
I think I learned the hard way that you can’t treat your body like that. You can’t stress all day and work all week and be always on. You need to rest, digest and repair and I learned a lot about stress and the importance of stillness and I have seen firsthand the benefits of it.
You had some scans recently that you got the all-clear for… but those moments must still be daunting? I think I will always be nervous of scans and I think a lot of the time I’ll think “Oh I’ll feel calm when I get that scan” and you just don’t. It is something that I have learned to live with and something that counselling has helped me with.
Counselling has been a case of acknowledging your feelings instead of pushing them away?
I’ve been lucky enough to find a counsellor who deals a lot with trauma and understood just how I was feeling. They have given me a lot of courage to do things that make me happy and to leave my job and not be so scared. Counselling has really transformed how I have dealt with the cancer.
You were a huge fan of Oprah’s acclaimed book What I Know For Sure, while you were unwell. So Georgie, looking back on the past two years, what do you know for sure?
What I know for sure is that I am happy right now. That I love my family. That I feel very complete despite everything bad that has happened to me, I do feel joy again and that means so much to me. It is possible to feel joy again!
INTERVIEW: Elle Gordon PHOTOGRAPHY: Emily Quinn; emilyquinn.com STYING: Fiona Fagan; fionafagan.com MAKEUP: Michelle Field; firstname.lastname@example.org HAIR: Hillary O’Reilly; Hillary.ie, @hillary.ie
For more from Georgie and The Good Glow check out her Instagram @georgie.crawford