A former Labour MP who lost her seat at last week’s general election has revealed she was diagnosed with breast cancer just a month before polling day.
Emma Dent Coad told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire she chose not to disclose the diagnosis as she did not want it to become an issue in the campaign.
Ms Dent Coad lost Kensington to the Conservatives by 150 votes.
She said she has undergone surgery and described her treatment at Charing Cross Hospital as “amazing”.
The 65-year-old was diagnosed on 14 November following routine screening and underwent a procedure to remove the cancer just three days before the election on 12 December.
She told Victoria Derbyshire: “I was very lucky, it was picked up very early after a screening. It was pre-lump stage. I always knew it was a possibility.
“I have four sisters, two of them have been through it and survived. I was hoping I had got away with it.
“I’m OK, actually, because I’m going through the process and I feel quite positive about it. But it was a horrible shock at a really terrible time.”
She added that doctors at Charing Cross were “amazing” and she is being supported by family but the timing meant juggling her work in the campaign.
“It was really hard especially because of the campaign having to deal with that at the same time,” she said.
Ms Dent Coad said she chose not to reveal the diagnosis partly because she was focused on dealing with the news herself and “partly because I did not want it to be a factor at all either positively or negative in my campaign”.
She added that her experience of social media had been “brutal and nasty” and her campaign began in an unpleasant way after accusations were made that, as a local councillor, she had a role in discussing the flammable cladding used on Grenfell Tower.
Ms Dent Coad confirmed that she is pursuing legal redress over the comments, which were made by her Liberal Democrat opponent, the former Conservative minister Sam Gyimah.
She has stated that when she was on the board of the organisation which managed Grenfell, the principle of refurbishing the tower was discussed, but she had left by the time there were any detailed discussions about cladding.
“I witnessed the [Grenfell Tower] fire and saw people I know die and I was accused of complicity which was untrue,” she said. “On so many levels it was a really nasty campaign from day one.”
It is an offence to make a false statement about a candidate in a general election campaign but the Lib Dems said in a statement that the party was not currently aware of any police investigation – or the basis for one – regarding Mr Gyimah’s campaign.
Asked whether the diagnosis might have made a difference to the result, she said: “I don’t think so. I don’t think it would have made a difference. We were facing a barrage of lies and nastiness throughout the campaign which was a disgrace.”
Ms Dent Coad received 16,618 votes to the Conservative’s Felicity Buchan’s 16,768. Mr Gyimah received 9,312 votes.
Who gets breast screening?
- Women aged 50 to their 71st birthday in England – every three years
- There’s a trial to examine the effectiveness of offering some women extra screening between the ages of 47 and 49, and between the ages of 71 and 73
- Younger women may be invited if they have a very high risk of developing breast cancer