Lord Michael Howard shares a personal story of grief about breast cancer with Northampton journalism student Bruna Tomsic in a new documentary she has made.
He described the devastating impact of his father’s death from breast cancer 50 years ago and, says Bruna, showed a side that people who know him as the former Home Secretary and Tory party leader will not be familiar with.
The University of Northampton released the following statement about the interview:
One of the UK’s most high-profile politicians, Lord Michael Howard, has opened up to a University of Northampton student about the death of his father.
Former Home Secretary and Conservative Party leader, Michael Howard, was interviewed by journalism student, Bruna Tomsic, for her documentary about male breast cancer, which claimed the life of his father.
The Tory peer was 24, when he received the news his father, Bernard, had just six months to live.
The impact of his death in 1966 still haunts Lord Howard to this day, as he told Bruna during the emotion-charged interview: “My father was the greatest influence on my early life and I loved him deeply. I even miss him today, more than 50 years after his death.
“We were told he had breast cancer and only had six months to live. We were all completely devastated, my mother, my sister, the other members of our family.
“Families going through the same thing have my deepest sympathy, it’s very difficult to stay strong. We tried very hard to think about everything that could be done to try and help him, and any slightest little chink of light or hope we seized, we hung on to. But, nothing could be done and the diagnosis proved to be absolutely accurate.”
He added: “Of course, there’s been a lot of progress since the 1960s, but it’s the case that breast cancer is still an illness that still needs to be addressed.”
The interview with Lord Howard forms part of Bruna’s new documentary, Finding Blue in Pink, which will be released online on Saturday 24 February.
Bruna said: “Even though it’s been more than 50 years since his father passed away, Lord Howard said that he still misses his father very much. When he was talking about when he and his family heard about his diagnosis, and how devastated they were, it was very emotional for him.
“By being in the documentary, I think people who have only seen him as a politician, will get to see a different side to Michael Howard. He was eager to express his condolences to all families who have lost loved ones to cancer, as he knows what they have been through.
“Lord Howard was welcoming, and very helpful. I am so grateful he agreed to the interview, because he is very busy and I am still just a student.”
Bruna’s interest in covering the subject of breast cancer comes from personal experience of the disease.
She said: “I lost both of my nans due to that horrific disease. At first, I wanted the documentary to focus on female breast cancer and explore possible treatments and support.
“But, while I was doing the research, I was shocked by the fact that it can happen to men too, as I don’t even remember reading about it.
“It was difficult to make a documentary like that, simply because of all the emotions floating around, but, deep down I knew I had to do it.”
Bruna added: “I hope that when people see the documentary they will understand that breast cancer is not a female-only disease, and that men will understand the importance of self-checking, before it is too late.”
Find out more about Finding Blue in Pink on the Men Have It Too website, which will also host the documentary from Saturday: https://menhaveittoo.wixsite.com/malebreastcancer/about-1
You can also follow Bruna’s Men Have It Too Twitter account: https://twitter.com/menhaveittoo