Sky Sports presenter Jacquie Beltrao marked her medical milestone of being five years cancer free with the holiday of a lifetime. "I've always wanted to come here," the 53-year-old former Olympic gymnast told HELLO! when we joined her for an exclusive interview and photoshoot at an idyllic coastal hideaway on the Riviera Maya in Mexico. "I used to put off doing the things I wanted, thinking they were too self-indulgent or could wait," she said. "After overcoming breast cancer, my outlook has changed. I’m seizing the moment, fulfilling all those wishes I put on the back burner, and I feel absolutely great."
From enjoying a sunshine break with her Brazilian-born husband Eduardo, 54, to having a facelift and splashing out on a Louis Vuitton handbag – "It was very extravagant, but I love it" – the mother of Amelia, 21, Tiago, 18, and 17-year-old Jorge is living life to the full. Basking in the luxurious ambience of the Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa, Jacquie told us how her mindset changed when doctors gave her the all clear on the fifth anniversary of her mastectomy.
Jacquie Beltrao celebrated five years cancer free on holiday with husband Eduardo
"That was the day I thought: 'Right, let’s start the year in a joyful way,'" she said. "A lot of people remove pleasures from their lives in the New Year, starting with Dry January. But I decided: 'No. I’m going to add things to it.' I drank lots of cocktails, ate loads of delicious food and jetted off with Eduardo on this rare holiday without the kids. It’s been a gorgeous, romantic experience, like a second honeymoon," she added. "We work so hard that we hardly get a minute with each other, so this has been a beautiful time for us together as a couple."
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As well as lounging on the beach, Jacquie has had a ball swimming in the Caribbean, practising morning yoga and cycling through the 200 acres of verdant tropical jungle and coconut plantations surrounding the resort. "Every morning, as I wake up in our four-poster bed, I gaze through the huge picture windows and watch the sun rise," she said. "The sky is streaked with shades of pink and orange. It feels like a new life is dawning for me, too." It is a complete turnaround since December 2013, when Jacquie discovered a lump in her right breast. "I was doing yoga before bedtime when I found it," she told us. "It felt hard, like a pearl, and I thought: 'What the hell is that?' It freaked me out." She made an appointment with the doctor the next day and on Christmas Eve was told she had stage 2 breast cancer. "I thought: 'That's it. I've only got months to live,'" she said. "My aunt died of breast cancer at the age of 42 and I was terrified the same would happen to me. Telling my children was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do," she added. "Jorge was so worried he kept following me around. Every time I turned, he was there behind me."
Jacquie is a former Olympic gymnast
It was Hollywood star Angelina Jolie who inspired Jacquie to have a mastectomy: following genetic testing, in 2013 Angelina underwent a double mastectomy to reduce her chances of developing cancer. "I thought that if it was good for Angelina, it was fine for me, too," Jacquie says. "I had a reconstruction and could even choose my size. I'd always been an A cup, but went up two sizes to a C cup. The result was amazing. As I recovered in hospital I was visited by my colleagues Charlotte Hawkins, Eamonn [Holmes] and Ruth [Langsford] and even made a new friend – Judy Murray. "While I was watching her son Andy playing tennis on the telly, I was still groggy from the anaesthetic and posted a tweet saying: 'I keep falling asleep during this match.' To which Judy jokingly replied: 'What are you talking about? That’s my son playing.' She and I have been friends ever since."
Jacquie underwent a mastectomy, inspired by Angelina Jolie
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Jacquie's mastectomy was only the beginning of her road to recovery. To make sure all the cancer cells were eliminated, she underwent five rounds of chemotherapy and took hormone therapy drug tamoxifen. "I lost all my hair as a result of the chemo," she said. "But fortunately I never saw myself without it because hair extension specialist Lucinda Ellery fitted me with a special mesh. "The tamoxifen was very debilitating, though. It gave me hot flushes, panic attacks and made my bones ache. It also brought on a medical menopause. Everyone in my family has been so supportive. Amelia is like her dad: strong, practical and upbeat. Whenever I felt down, she’d say: 'Come on, Mum, you’re going to be fine.'"
Jacquie has become an ambassador for breast cancer charity Future Dreams
To keep her family life as normal as possible, Jacquie kept up their usual routines, a feat she attributes to her high fitness levels. "I continued to walk our dogs, drove Jorge to his tennis lessons and, one day – even after a chemo session – took him to watch Arsenal play at Wembley," she said. "I became more regimented about fitness, going to the gym every day and doing yoga. Being fit and trying to stay positive helped me through it. "But I’m one of the lucky ones. I survived," she added. "I used to think that every birthday or Christmas might be my last, which made me think: 'I need to embrace life more.' "In a strange way, having cancer has given me more confidence. When I’m faced with a challenge, I tell myself: 'What's the worst that can happen? Go for it.'"
Jacquie is excited for the future
Jacquie has been taking the plunge ever since, becoming an ambassador for breast cancer charity Future Dreams and modelling post-mastectomy swimwear by US designer Melissa Odabash, who created the Jacquie range in her honour. Posing in a selection of fabulous pieces from the designer’s collection, she told us: "I'd never had a nice bikini. Now Melissa's got me all styled up for the beach." Two months ago, Jacquie ticked off another item on her wish list: a facelift to combat the ageing effects of her cancer ordeal. "The medication and menopause took their toll and made me look haggard," she said. "I'm thrilled with the result." Now needing standard breast checks only every three years, Jacquie is looking to the future and is making the most of every opportunity. "I'll take more holidays and do what I enjoy," she said. "If there's one thing I’ve learnt since I was diagnosed, it’s that we should make the most of life while we still can."
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