Lynda Bellingham opens up about living with cancer

Lynda Bellingham allowed exclusive access to her home for her first major interview and pictures  since she  was diagnosed with Cancer.

Lynda1bellinghamPictures By Alan Olley

Words By Richard Barber

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Words by Patrick Hill

Pictures by Mark Bourdillon


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Baroness Oona King reveals the guilt amid the joy of her first Christmas as a biological mother

Word By Richard Barber : Pictures By Alan Olley

I longed for my own baby but my adopted children felt I had betrayed them: Baroness Oona King reveals the guilt amid the joy of her first Christmas as a biological mother

While the arrival of a new baby is a joyous occasion for its parents, it is often deeply unsettling for older siblings. And surely never more so than when the older children in question are adopted, and the new baby is a much-longed-for biological child.

This is the position in which Oona King’s three adopted children found themselves in October, when she had her first natural baby, Tullio. At the time, the 46-year-old Baroness King of Bow, as she’s known in the House of Lords, told the Mail of the excitement she felt at having her first biological child.

She also revealed that she had spent more than £70,000 on six failed IVF attempts after a miscarriage and years of vain attempts to conceive, before adopting three children — a son, eight-year-old Elia, and daughters Kaia, six, and Ariel, two. Even after adopting those beautiful children, Oona dreamed of having her own baby.

The former MP had frozen a clutch of her fertilised eggs years before adopting. When the hospital staff told her they would soon have to destroy the embryos, she was left to make a monumental decision.

And so she and her husband Tiberio resorted to a surrogate. Tullio was created from Oona’s egg and Tiberio’s sperm, but carried by 24-year-old Zarayna Lee. This Christmas was spent as Oona had long dreamed it would be, with her newly-expanded family all around her.

As well as the children, she and Tiberio also celebrated it with his parents and family, plus Oona’s mother and her brother. ‘There were 18 of us: ten adults and eight children,’ she says.

But while there’s much festivity in the King household, Oona confesses to being strict when it comes to Christmas presents for her children.

‘Last year, they were each given £7 and taken to Poundland, where they bought seven presents,’ she says.

And this year? ‘Elia got a Kindle. He’s a voracious reader. Ariel had a Play-Doh sculpture set. And Kaia got a miniature drum set. We must be mad. As though this house weren’t noisy enough already.’

What about Tullio? Was he spoilt?

‘No, Tullio didn’t get anything. His present was being born.’

‘Yes, Christmas felt different, but not because Tullio is our biological child. It was because he’s a newborn baby. And the next two years are going to be really hard. Four children equals four times as much aggro as one child. But it’s also four times as much joy.’

This conflict of emotion is expressed again and again when Oona discusses her family life. While husband and wife were delighted to be blessed with a biological child, she confesses today that the new baby’s arrival has thrown their family into turmoil.

It seems her adopted children — some of whom still bear the scars of their traumatic starts in life — feel that they may have been superseded by their new brother.

‘There was one incident that was like a dagger in my heart,’ says Oona. ‘I’d always had a beautiful picture of Elia and Kaia on my mobile phone’s screensaver. Then everyone was asking me about Tullio, so I decided to use a photo of him instead.

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My surrogate baby joy, by Oona King: After years of failed IVF and three adopted children, Baroness tells how the birth of her son by a surrogate has completed her world

Exclusive photoshoot and interview with Oona King by Alan Olley and Richard Barber for Scope Features

At 11.55pm on Thursday, the moment Oona King had been anticipating for more than 15 years finally arrived: her longed-for first biological child was born.

But rather than elation, that first precious touch of her newborn son’s skin triggered panic and pessimism.

‘I have to admit,’ she confides, ‘as I cradled him, it felt like there was a glass screen between us. I felt really detached from him.

‘I also felt like I was being unfaithful to my three other children.’

It’s a complex reaction because, at 45, Baroness King of Bow, as she’s known in the House of Lords, had to rely on a surrogate to deliver her baby.

She had previously spent more than £70,000 on six failed attempts at IVF and she and her husband, Tiberio, had adopted three children: Elia, eight, Kaia, six, and two-year-old Ariel.

That would be more than enough of a handful for most women — but Oona persisted with her dream of having her own biological child.

A controversial decision — and one she is speaking about publicly for the first time today.

She insists she was not gripped by an  insatiable desire to have her own biological child, but simply didn’t want to discard embryos she and Tiberio, 51, had frozen when going through IVF.

‘It’s just that we paid £1,500 a year to freeze our embryos and I couldn’t bear the thought of destroying potential life.

‘I felt my family was complete, yet something stopped me sanctioning those eggs being destroyed. When the chance of surrogacy came up, we went ahead.’

Not that Oona had ever truly believed she would end up with her own healthy baby at the end of it.

‘When you’ve been through so many failed attempts, you never believe there’ll be a happy ending,’ she says. ‘That’s why I felt so detached from our baby when I held him. I just assumed he was going to die.

‘There were a few emergencies when he stopped breathing, but he has since been declared healthy by doctors. Yet I still can’t relax.’

And what about leaving it until halfway through her fifth decade — doesn’t she worry about being an older mother?

‘Not at the moment, no,’ she insists. ‘We’re both very healthy, very fit and very young in our attitude. I’m sure the years will catch up with us, but for now we feel well able to cope with the arrival of a brand new baby.’

Oona claims that, where others see problems, she sees challenges.

And achieving her dream of having a bustling family has certainly been that: one complicated by her high-profile career, the stress of which even led to the temporary break-up of her marriage.

‘Yes, it’s been tough,’ says Oona. ‘But nothing compares to the joy of having a family, so it’s all worth it.

‘The stress of my work was obviously a factor in my not getting pregnant — although it couldn’t have been the only explanation.

‘But I’m a determined person; more than that, I’m resilient. It’s a quality that helps both personally and professionally.’

This from the politician who knew she wanted to be an MP from the tender age of four.

She and her young brother, Slater, grew up in Camden, North London. Their father, Preston King, an African-American who was active in the civil rights movement, and her English mother, Hazel, a teacher from an Orthodox Jewish family, split up when she was four.

She attended Haverstock comprehensive, where she met fellow pupils David and Ed Miliband.

True to her childhood wish, she went on to work in Brussels for the European Parliament in 1991. It was there, at 23, she met Tiberio Santomarco, then 28, an Italian fellow trainee.

They were friends for two years before romance blossomed: they married in July 1994 in Naples, near where Tiberio is from.

Having settled in East London, they focused on their careers — hers working for the GMB union until 1997, his working for a media company — and family wasn’t their ‘top priority’.

She says: ‘If anything, Tiberio was the broody one. I wasn’t yet 30 and I felt I had plenty of time for babies.’

Full story in Daily Mail

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Danniella Westbrook “I was raped, the three little words that changed my life”

For almost 20 years, Danniella Westbrook carried around a secret that she was prepared to take to her grave. Ashamed, terrified and humiliated, she didn’t tell a soul. After all, she was to blame, wasn’t she? Wasn’t it all her fault?

Like so many women, the former EastEnders actress beat herself up over what had happened, the secret quietly eating away at her. But earlier this year, she finally found the strength and courage to come forward and say those three words that changed her life: “I was raped.”

Now, Danniella has joined Reveal’s Report Every Rape campaign and is committed to raising awareness that rape victims need not suffer in silence. “Whether this has just happened to you or was 10 years ago, don’t feel trapped. Speak to someone, call Rape Crisis. I felt trapped for so long. But there is so much help out there now,” says the 39-year-old mum-of-two.

Danniella only spoke about her harrowing ordeal for the first time this year when writing her second book, Faith, Hope And Clarity. “In 1994, I owed some money for drugs and three guys kidnapped me. When I couldn’t pay the £5,000 debt, they held me for three days and gang-raped me,” she says.

“I was only 21. I was petrified. Who wouldn’t be? I thought they would kill me. I didn’t try to fight them – you don’t mess with people like that. They gave me Rohypnol so I was only semi-conscious at times.

“When they finally let me go I went straight home. I didn’t even think about going to the police, not in a million years. I felt lucky to be alive.

“I didn’t want to see anyone, speak to anyone. I showered about six times, scrubbing myself clean. Then I pulled the curtains, got under the quilt and just cried. It’s the most alone feeling in the whole world.”

Danniella understands only too well the reasons victims don’t feel they can report rape: “I felt I was to blame. It was all my fault – that’s what people would think. Now I look back and know that should not have happened to me. It was completely inhumane.

“It was already out in the papers that I was taking drugs so I thought everyone would think: ‘Well, if you’re taking drugs, you’ve asked for it.'”

But in not getting help, it continued to ruin her life: “I got more heavily into drugs to block out the pain. I’d already alienated my friends and family, and because I felt so worthless I ended up with low life people who didn’t treat me well. I was an object. It wasn’t until I met my husband, Kevin, that I realised that wasn’t the normal way to have a relationship with somebody.”

For confidential advice and support, contact Rape Crisis on 0808 802 9999 and


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Anneka Rice returns to Romanian orphanage 22 years after first visiting ‘living hell’


We took Anneka Rice back to Romania to visit the orphanage that featured in the 1990 episode of Challenge Anneka which drew  over 11 million TV viewers.
The Sunday Express featured our exclusive report.    If you wish to make a donation to the charity go to:

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Mother celebrates quads’ first birthday after defying the doctors who urged her to have two aborted

Pictures By Scope Features photographer Alan Olley

Bursting with joy: Mother celebrates quads’ first birthday after defying the doctors who urged her to have two aborted

The Robbins’ quadruplets turned one last week and their birthday presents — four blankets, a tent, a rocking snail and some plastic musical instruments — are arranged neatly in the family’s semi-detached home.
Routine and organisation are by-words for their parents Emma and Martin, who know that chaos would ensue if their sons’ lives were not regulated with military precision.
‘Even their menu is recorded on spreadsheets,’ says Emma. ‘We know what the boys will be eating in two weeks’ time, and all their food is freshly prepared and seasonal. This week they’ll have squash risotto, chicken and winter vegetables, Bolognese, fish and a Sunday roast. I cook for us all, then puree their meals.’
Bedtime, waking, naps, bottle-feeds and periods for play are also rigidly prescribed. ‘We stick to a timetable,’ says Emma, 31. ‘It throws them when their routine is disrupted, then they start to play up.’
Under this judicious regime of discipline and love, Samuel, Reuben, Joshua and Zachary are happy and thriving. Emma presides over the household with impressive equanimity, which is why it comes as such a surprise to learn that in the early months of her babies’ lives, she was so exhausted she failed to bond with them and contemplated giving them up for adoption.
‘I wasn’t coping; I didn’t think I could ever love them. I was only getting a couple of hours’ sleep a night and I was so tired, I was hallucinating.’
Emma also worried that the quadruplets’ three-year-old brother, Luke, was being deprived of attention.
‘One day I just thought: “The quads would be better off without me.” ’
Yet from early in her pregnancy, she had fought to keep all four of her quadruplets, and the fact that they are alive and prospering is a minor miracle in itself.
Not only were they conceived naturally at odds of 750,000 to one, they are also the only leap year quads in Britain to have been born on  February 29 — the chances of that are 3.5 million to one — and will therefore celebrate a birthday only every four years.
They are also flourishing despite the physical risks of multiple births. Indeed, when Emma — a former project manager — discovered she was pregnant with quads, she was advised repeatedly to ‘selectively reduce’ two of the foetuses to give the remaining pair a better chance of survival. She refused.
‘We knew about the things that could go wrong — premature births, miscarriage, cerebral palsy, even death — and I knew that even if all our boys survived, the pressure on our finances would be huge.
Mummy’s little miracles: The quadruplets were conceived naturally at odds of 750, 000 to one
‘But I couldn’t bring myself to choose between them. How could anyone? I knew I had a strong marriage, that Martin would support and help me every step of the way, so I decided to let nature take its course.’
Emma and Martin are now embracing parenthood on an epic scale. ‘The boys are a joy,’ she says.
‘They’re hard work; not because they’re difficult babies, but because there are so many of them. But they’re my life. I’m incredibly grateful for them, and proud of what we’ve achieved.
‘Martin and I have no social life, no time to ourselves. We scrimp and bulk-buy bargains. But we have a deeper respect for each other now, and every day one of the boys will do something that makes me think: “You’re the sweetest, most beautiful thing in the world.” ’
Each one has a distinct character. Zach is jolly and easy-going. Sammy is sweet and sensitive. Reuben is such a bully — if one of them has a toy, he always wants it. And Joshua is the boss; the naughty one who learns everything first.’
Martin, a sign-maker, has designed coloured tops for the boys, each one bearing their name, which they are wearing when I visit.
Silences are rare in the Robbins’ three-bedroom home in Bristol, and even these are invariably punctuated by the washing machine churning through five loads each day.
The household utility bills have trebled since the quads arrived; food costs £150 a week and the boys get through 300 nappies every fortnight. Their quad buggy, fully freighted, weighs 10 stone. Naturally people stare but while Martin, 39, relishes the attention, Emma does not.
‘I feel for Luke,’ she says. ‘He said that nobody loved him any more when the quads arrived, and my heart nearly broke in two. We try to give him as much one-to-one attention as possible but it’s been hard — although he’s starting to enjoy his brothers now he can see what fun they’re going to be.When Martin comes home from work, he makes a point of spending time just with Luke.’
The Robbins, who have been married for four years, planned to have a second sibling for Luke.
They vividly remember the day, in October 2011, when a routine hospital scan disclosed that Emma was carrying quads.
She says: ‘The sonographer went silent and I wondered what was wrong — I was worried she couldn’t detect a heartbeat.

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