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Inverness broadcaster turns her private blog about her cancer journey into a podcast

By Rachel Smart

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Pennie Latin-Stuart has launched her podcast series LUMP. Picture: Callum Mackay
Pennie Latin-Stuart has launched her podcast series LUMP. Picture: Callum Mackay

When Pennie Latin-Stuart was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2020, she felt like she’d lost the ability to speak about what she was going through. To pin down what was going on in her head, the broadcaster and producer decided to put pen to paper and scribed a private blog capturing her most intimate thoughts and feelings, which she assumed she would stop writing once she had her mastectomy.

However, nothing prepared her for the emotional and physical rollercoaster that was to ensue, and she found herself writing long past her treatment and recovery. Now Pennie has decided to turn her brutally-honest account into a hard-hitting podcast: LUMP. The series, which is out now, captures everything from her diagnosis and the fear of test results through her mastectomy and reconstruction.

We had the chance to chat with the 53-year-old about what has led her to now share the most vulnerable parts of herself with the rest of the world.

She said: “It feels like the natural next step. When it was first written it wasn’t meant to go public at all. It was purely written so that I could pin down some of the stuff that was going on in my head, and to be able to share that with my now husband.

“Over time it evolved, and I thought I could put it out there as a blog, and publish it, and then I guess it was almost inevitable that it came back around to me publishing it as a podcast as that’s what I do, and is essentially my way of communicating.

“The way it was written was to be read, as that’s my expertise, writing for radio and writing for speech. It just felt like it was sitting there waiting to be read, and I guess I’m also at a point where three years down the line, although it's raw, I’m okay with it.”

For the Inverness-based mum-of-one, sharing her story with the world is about helping just one person going through a similar experience and who may be wrestling with the same thoughts and feelings.

“If it allows other people who are going through cancer to feel they are not alone, then that’s massively important,” explained Pennie.

“I’ve had cold feet a couple of times but speaking to my friends who have had similar experiences, and what they say, I think ‘I’ve written about that!’”

Pennie is now cancer free, however, she had to undergo a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, which is an ongoing story for her.

She said: “In terms of the cancer I was lucky. I caught it early. But for me, it's been the surgery that I’ve really struggled recovering from. Almost the hardest part is learning to have acceptance. Accepting where I’m at, in terms of what I can do physically. I was very physically active before and I would do big miles on my bike, and all of that is gone now which is difficult.

“You keep thinking ‘when is it going to be done?’ ‘when is it going to be over?’ but it’s not.

Pennie Latin-Stuart. Picture: Callum Mackay
Pennie Latin-Stuart. Picture: Callum Mackay

“It has become part of who I am, it's part of my DNA. While I don’t want to be defined by cancer I can’t entirely separate myself from it.”

There are many things that people can expect from Pennie’s podcast, including tears, laughter and brutal honesty.

She said: “It is real honesty, I don’t pull any punches. I haven’t changed it at all, and I’ve deliberately kept the words I used when I first wrote it.

“It’s like stepping inside someone’s head and body. I think that honesty is a currency, so more than anything else I want people to take the honesty from it.

“There are also parts which are laugh-out-loud funny, like black humour! But there are also parts where there are tears, and you will hear me crying. Tears are alright – they are part of life."

Throughout the past three years, Pennie has learned the value of leaning into other people and that she has some incredible friends and family out there. There have also been a few other things she has picked up, that is valuable for anyone who knows someone going through a life-changing situation to be aware of.

She said: “I think it’s really hard to hand out useful advice when someone is going through cancer treatment and recovery. I think my friends and family were pretty careful in handing out any advice. While there's massive crossovers with life-changing illnesses, at the same time people are absolutely unique and everyone is individual in the way we deal with things.

“There is probably advice I could have gone without. The whole thing has made me very careful about any advice I hand out unless I'm standing in their shoes.

“What helped me was unwavering love and support.

“I think people are very scared of hearing that someone they know has been diagnosed with cancer. They're scared of stepping into the trench. It wasn’t advice that I valued but I really valued the people who felt able to step into that dark space with me, be there with me, and not be scared of what I was going through.

“If someone you know has been diagnosed, don’t be afraid of just being there. You don’t have to say you’re going to be alright. You can just say ‘I’m really sorry you’re having a s*** time and I’m here for you’.”

“It helps if you step into the trench with them and just be there and hold them – but don’t be afraid of someone’s cancer bubble.”

In order to launch LUMP, Pennie has partnered up with local hairdresser, The Head Gardener and her business partner, Dan, at Adventurous Audio.

Ali McRitchie, director the Head Gardener in Inverness, who herself has been battling breast cancer, said: “With one in seven women in the UK now being diagnosed with breast cancer (that’s one woman diagnosed every 10 minutes), the ripple effects are huge, not just for the women (and men) who are battling cancer but for their friends and families who witness the struggle first-hand.

Ali McRitchie and Pennie Latin. Picture: Callum Mackay..
Ali McRitchie and Pennie Latin. Picture: Callum Mackay..

“The more we can share our experiences in as open and honest a way as possible, the more we can all feel supported through this terrible disease.

“Pennie’s writing and broadcasting goes straight to the heart of the issue and never pulls a punch, it’ll have you laughing and crying and, most importantly, talking about your own experiences.

“As a hairdresser I’m keenly aware of the devastating impact cancer can have on how women perceive their bodies and their beauty and just how much that can undermine their self-confidence.

“We have clients from right across the Highlands and it can be hugely isolating to experience cancer when you’re a long way from support services. By sponsoring this important and impactful podcast we want to reach out to support all our clients, their families and friends so everyone realises they’re not alone in their struggles to come to terms with diagnosis.”

Pennie added: “LUMP is so personal and raw and it really needed the right partnership for me to feel comfortable with it.

“When Ali said she was behind it, it felt incredibly supportive. It feels more possible to put it out there as she’s got my back, and it feels like it's in really safe hands.

“It’s been important for me to team up with The Head Gardener as it feels like there’s a whole family behind it, as its quite a scary, vulnerable thing for me to do.”

The podcast has now been launched with four bonus episodes, and after this a new episode will drop weekly every Friday for the next year.

Pennie plans to mix it up and every few episodes she will gather a few people around who have had similar experiences and get their take on things.

She concluded: “I don’t think it's always going to be an easy listen, but I hope it will be a compelling listen.”

Click here to hear Pennie’s story in her own words.

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