Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, has revealed she has incurable cancer, and described how telling her children was the hardest moment of her life.
In an article for the Sunday Times magazine, the 46-year old mother of four wrote that she had been diagnosed with follicular lymphoma in November 2016, after finding a lump in her groin a month earlier.
Lady Mendelsohn, who is the wife of Jonathan Mendelsohn, the Labour peer, described her husband as “amazing, my absolute rock”. She described how they didn’t tell their children straightaway because of a family event, but sat them down afterwards and told them the news.
“Zac is our youngest [13 year-old Zac Mendelsohn just celebrated his Bar Mitzvah on Saturday] and his first question was: ‘Are you going to die?’ That’s always the thought that comes into your head when you hear the word ‘cancer’,” she wrote.
“It is not a conversation I could ever have imagined having with them, not even in my worst nightmares, until it hit me in the face. It was the hardest moment of my life.”
There is currently no cure for follicular lymphoma. A slow growing cancer, over 60 per cent of people diagnosed with it go on to live for more than a decade. Lady Mendelsohn has decided not to start chemotherapy immediately, but rather adopt a “watch and wait” method, seeing if the symptoms get worse, in which case she will then start treatment.
“Lymphoma is the fifth most common cancer diagnosed by UK clinicians and the most prevalent form of blood cancer. Of non-Hodgkin (slow-growing) lymphomas, follicular is the most common,” Lady Mendelsohn wrote.
“Yet it is not a high-profile cancer. Few people have even heard of it. It doesn’t have the awareness of other cancers and there isn’t anywhere near the same money going into researching it yet. There’s little awareness about blood cancers generally.
“That’s why we need to raise awareness and get more money invested in it, so we can find a cure. With any disease, progress towards treatments is made when people come out to say: ‘What more can we do?’ That’s why I want to tell my story. It’s rare to see people in business telling personal stories like this. I want to use my voice to help other people.”