Forever in My Heart is a brave and searing diary account of Jade Goody’s fight against cancer during her final year.
I’d bought the book years before, but it was hidden at the back of my bookcase. After watching the Channel 4 documentary ‘Jade, the reality TV star who changed the world’ I decided it was time to read it.
The story starts when her agent reveals her shock diagnosis via telephone, whilst she is being filmed on the Indian version of Big Brother.
Much of Jade’s world was filmed on reality TV, even at the height of her illness. Jade revelled in this, being a natural extrovert, but constantly being in the public eye often overwhelmed her.
Although she was strong, sassy and not one to suffer fools gladly, Jade’s vulnerable side lay fairly close to the surface.
She was exploited, not least when she joined Celebrity Big Brother in 2005. Some of the celebrities who accompanied Jade and her small entourage discovered they were to role play as ‘slaves’ to the people from Bermondsey, and created a furore. One team member ‘escaped’ by climbing a wall, shouting how he didn’t ‘Want to stay with a load of f*ing morons!’ Leo Sayer also stormed.
Jade’s mother being expelled from the house with no shoes on. This was shown in detail on a second TV documentary and Jade was upset and tearful. Angry and destabilised, she revealed the feisty side of her character. The atmosphere was divided, tense and hostile. Whatever was said, and plenty was said by both sides, Jade and her friends became embroiled in an unsavoury race row with Shilpa Shetty, a Bollywood star.
This blew out of all proportion and the tabloid media ran headlines about racism; news bulletins commented on it. As a result, Jade was alienated and ostracised.
Big Brother 2002 made Jade. Three years later it helped to break her. No attempt was made to edit the programme and no thought was given to Jade’s welfare or mental health, a topic of great concern nowadays.
Jade decided to take part in the Indian version of Big Brother to prove that she was not racist. She needed the money, but she also hoped the show would be a new start for her. She went ahead, despite misgivings about her health. In fact she was seriously ill. Shortly
before the trip she collapsed, bleeding heavily. Despite numerous blood tests she was, incredibly, given the all clear and told it was fine for her to travel to India.
She had been only a short while in India when she received the news that she had cancer; abnormalities had shown on a biopsy and she was advised to return home. Jade was alone, miles from home and distraught. The press never left her alone. When she arrived at Heathrow, crying and vulnerable; she still ‘…felt the heat of the lights and all those eyes on me.’
Even when she was seriously ill and trying to cope people still slated her. One internet comment reads: ‘Jade is exaggerating and lying about this cancer and I think she should be ashamed…….’. Insinuations suggested that because of the ‘horrible racist things she said to Shilpa Shetty’ her illness was ‘karma.’
The diaries tell of a struggle that she could not win. It is clear that from the start that she did not receive proper medical care. She had suffered with cervical abnormalities since the age of sixteen, and received minor treatment. Even after suffering a miscarriage in 2007 and being admitted to hospital afterwards with agonising pains and heavy bleeding, an ultrasound scan still showed up as normal. Outrageously, one doctor told her, ’You’re an attention seeking hysteric who wouldn’t know a normal period even if it hit you!’
It wasn’t until she came under the care of the Royal Marsden Hospital that the true situation was established.
Jade’s courage and practical way of dealing with her situation often takes over. She maintains an upbeat, even humorous veneer which is inspiring and remarkable. She lived for her two young boys and agonised about them when she knew her illness was terminal. She is driven to making as much money as possible for a trust fund for them.
Jade Goody refused to give in to her illness, marrying the love of her life Jack Tweed in a lavish ceremony at Down Hall Country House. She describes being a little bossy with her bridesmaids but says, wryly, ‘I was being narky, but it was my wedding day and I was dying – so it’s allowed!’ The bishop who married the couple said that she was laughing in the face of death and it was a privilege to be part of it.
Only a couple of weeks before Jade died,, she discovered that she had been voted the third most respected person in the world in an internet poll, just behind Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela. She was genuinely moved: a far cry from the dark days of Celebrity Big Brother when people in India burnt effigies of her.
‘Jade forever in my heart’ is harrowing yet inspiring. What happened to Jade has led to more women having cervical smear tests which she refers to as something positive.
This book is a book for life; everyone should read it.
a book review by Susan Eggleton
Jade - forever in my heart
Harper Collins, an available ion Hardback, paper back and Kindle editions from £2.49
charitable donations in support of Marie Curie Cancer Care Trust