One in two of us will develop some form of cancer in our lifetime, but until recently, the conversation around the disease was often kept hushed up, the narrative swaying towards the negative.
One of the people who has helped to change that narrative and break the taboos is Steve Bland, a journalist, broadcaster and podcast co-host.
He’s best-known for his work on You Me and the Big C, a BBC podcast he has co-hosted with Lauren Mahon and the late Dame Deborah James since 2018.
Steve was thrust into the public eye in the most tragic of circumstances, when his wife – journalist Rachael Bland, who founded the podcast – died from breast cancer at the age of 40.
While most of us would have hidden away from the world, Steve bravely stepped up to the mic – literally.
He took up his wife’s seat at the podcast table alongside Lauren and Deborah to talk about loss.
The trio discussed the impact Rachael’s death had on Steve’s then-two-year-old son Freddie, the catharsis of talking, and how it feels to begin grieving even before someone has died.
He said: “We were told she had days – it was a proper sledgehammer. She died almost exactly a week later. Every night I’d be lying there at night and she’d be asleep, and I’d be looking at her, almost waiting for her to die, watching her breathing.
“Quite a few times she’d wake up and see me staring at her and be like ‘What are you doing, why are you just watching me?'”
Since that guest appearance, Steve has become a permanent fixture on the You, Me and the Big C podcast, taking the baton from his late wife and running with it.
They were big, brilliant shoes to fill but Steve brought a new perspective to the cancer conversation, and talked with refreshing honesty about grief, and life after death.
The group have shown that even in the darkest of days, it’s okay to find light and laughter, including telling stories of getting the giggles at Rachael’s actual funeral and, more recently, remembering Dame Deborah’s funniest moments while paying tribute to her.
They’ve also opened up a conversation about cancer that wasn’t there before, talking about every aspect of the disease and encouraging people to do the same.
In the days after Rachael’s death, Steve talked about how he didn’t shy away from the subject with their son Freddie.
Steve said at the time: “There have been occasions where I’ve lost my temper with [Freddie] and I know I wouldn’t have done in normal circumstances.
“I shouted at him because he was being a right pain, (I was) trying to get him dressed. I started crying because it really upset me that I’d shouted at him.
“And he just turned to me and he said, ‘Daddy, are you crying because of Mummy?’ and I said ‘Yes’. And he said, ‘Daddy, don’t worry, it’s just us two now. It’ll be OK’.”
Since Steve has joined the podcast, they’ve welcomed in guests to discuss everything from death admin, scientific breakthroughs, treatment options, fertility, ‘scanxiety’, changing the language used around cancer, the way it’s portrayed in the media, and even sex and intimacy when you have or have had cancer.
More recently, he’s talked about finding new love, and about not feeling guilty for it (he’s engaged to marry new fiancée Amy, an NHS nurse).
He said in an interview on ITV’s Lorraine: “Why should I feel guilty? I want to be happy, I’m 40 years old, I’ve got the rest of my life ahead of me. I want to be happy and Rachael wanted me and Freddie to be happy.
“That comes down to individual decisions – for some people they won’t want to meet someone, for other people they might do it within six months of someone dying, and that’s okay as well.
“I think the important thing is to break down the taboo and make it something that people don’t even have to worry about judgement for, there’s no need to feel guilty. All I’m trying to do and all people in my situation are trying to do is be happy and make the most of life.”
He once told The Telegraph: “She always said it would really upset her if she thought I was going to pack it in at 38. I’m determined not to live a second class version of what my life was.”
Steve is a proud supporter of MacMillan and has run the London Marathon to raise money for the charity’s brilliant work, as well as advocating for other campaigns like Stand Up To Cancer.
So although he’s technically from just across the border in Cheshire, we think Steve’s podcast work based at MediaCityUK makes him a very worthy Manc of the Month for July.
Featured Image – Instagram (@mr_blandy)
Meet the couple who quit their jobs to sell sandwiches from their Northern Quarter flat
If you’re a fan of things in bread (and honestly, who isn’t) then there’s a new Italian sandwich dealer in town that you absolutely need to get down your neck.
Serving up some of the best butties we’ve had in a long time, it’s called Ad Maiora and is being run by a couple who are making absolutely everything out of a kitchen in their little Manchester flat.
Collected from a nondescript door on a Norther Quarter back street, we’re talking giant focaccia-style loaves generously stuffed with premium ingredients like ‘nduja, spicy Tuscan sausage, smoked scamorza, mortadella, burrata and red pesto.
The brainchild of Sardinian couple Daniela Steri and Enrico Pinna, all of their sandwiches are made using only top quality Italian ingredients with a total of nine different options to choose from.
From the vegan-friendly La Nonna (Italian hummus, roasted aubergine, olives, sundried tomatoes and rocket) to a huge array of different cheesy and meaty delights, fillings include parma ham, gorgonzola DOP, truffled brie, Milano salami and crumbled pistachios.
Their bread is baked freshly by hand each morning using a tiny domestic oven, and they’re already baking up to 60 loaves of schiacciata (a traditional Tuscan flatbread) a day to keep up with the demand – putting just four in the oven at a time, over and over again.
On our visit, the pair tell us that they moved over from Sardinia to the UK six years ago and first tried living in London for a year (they say they hated it) before making the move up to Manchester.
In that time, they say they’ve fallen in love with the city of Manchester and with the Northern Quarter in particular.
Inspired by the brilliant food scene in their area, two months ago they both decided to pack in their jobs and pursue their own business instead – and haven’t looked back since.
Previously, Daniela tells us she’d worked at hotel Dakota in housekeeping for three years whilst her partner, Enrico, had been employed at Ezra and Gil. Despite their hospitality experience, though, neither of them had made bread before.
That doesn’t seem to be holding them back, though, and demand for their sandwiches is rocketing as word spreads about the new homemade Italian butties for sale on a Manchester backstreet.
Available to order via Deliveroo for collection or delivery, use the code ADMAIORA5 to get a cheeky five pounds off your order courtesy of The Manc.
Feature image – The Manc Eats
Northern Belle in Manchester – one of the world’s most luxurious trains with £440 tickets and seven-course dinners on board
A luxury train journey costing £440 per ticket, where passengers walk a red carpet to board, will depart from Manchester this year.
A ride on board the Northern Belle often includes a seven-course dinner, champagne, and on-board entertainment.
The prestigious train, rated by Conde Nast as one of the top 10 in the world, has seven Pullman carriages, each one decorated by master craftsmen in a 1930s-style.
It’s a seriously luxurious experience, with tickets costing anywhere between £295 and £695 per person – which, to be fair, isn’t even that much more than a last-minute ticket on an Avanti train to London…
Trips promise to take in some of the most scenic stretches of Britain’s railways.
The Spirit of Travel lunch departs from Manchester Victoria and snakes its way past Rochdale, Hebden Bridge and Brighouse.
On board, passengers sink into plush armchairs with crisp white tablecloths on the tables between them.
Within minutes, liveried stewards crack open the champagne and guests get a chance to browse the menu created by celebrated chef Matthew Green.
As passengers are whisked through the British countryside, seven fine dining courses are served to their tables, alongside complementary fine wine chosen by Northern Belle’s own sommelier.
Condé Nast Traveller magazine named it in the top 10 train journeys in the world, beating the iconic Flying Scotsman.
They wrote: “It’s all about the food – and the scenery, but mostly about the food – on this lovingly-restored train which zig-zags its way across the countryside.
“The meal services are exquisite, offering fine dining crafted mostly from UK suppliers so you can enjoy classic British fare as the heaths, meadows and dales roll on by.”