Personal Experiences
Baby joy for Derbyshire TV star Charles Hanson and wife Rebecca after two years of anguish Charles, Matilda and Rebecca Hanson Derbyshire antiques expert Charles Hanson has opened his heart to talk about his cancer battle and the loss of his son. The 36-year-old BBC TV celebrity has described the last two years of his life as “devastating” and “painful”. But now Charles and his wife, Rebecca, 30, are celebrating the birth of their baby daughter, four-month-old Matilda – following IVF treatment. In August, 2012, the couple’s lives were turned upside down when Charles was diagnosed with testicular cancer. One month later, Charles and Rebecca’s son, whom they named Thomas William Hanson, was stillborn. “It was devastating and painful,” said Charles, who has just started filming for the autumn series of Bargain Hunt. Last October, Charles’ cancer made an unexpected comeback and he faced gruelling chemotherapy. At the time, Rebecca was three months pregnant with their second baby. After her pregnancy was carefully monitored by experts following the tragedy of Tommy, she finally gave birth to a healthy and happy Matilda. The couple are now supporting the Derby branch of the charity SANDS – Stillbirth and Neonatal Death – which helped them through their grief over Tommy. Charles raised £39,000 for SANDS by completing the Great North Run in memory of Tommy. After recovering from his illness he yesterday began filming the next series of TV antiques show Bargain Hunt. He missed only one series while he was poorly and said the BBC had been “very supportive”. “It has been a tough two years,” said Charles. “But Matilda has been a wonderful, happy baby and I am feeling well now. Our daughter is now four months old and she’s such a relaxed and happy baby. I think she gets her good nature from Rebecca." Charles and Rebecca are delighted to talk about their beautiful daughter, who was born in April. She's happy and content and the pair adore their little girl. But it is not long before the conversation turns to the baby son they lost in September 2012. "Tommy would have been two years old this year," said Rebecca. "There he is," she said, pointing to a small, framed photograph sitting proudly on the mantelpiece. "His picture is alongside his sister's. Matilda will know all about Tommy as she grows up. He will always be a big part of our life. What happened was terrible and it could not have come at a worse time for us." The couple's son was stillborn just one month after Charles was diagnosed with testicular cancer. "I was six months pregnant," said Rebecca, who worked as a radiographer. "Everything with the pregnancy had been fine. But when Charles was diagnosed, our attention obviously turned to him. He needed surgery and it was quite a worry. I had been relaxed about the pregnancy but when Charles fell ill I was desperately concerned about him. I'd been to see the midwife on the Wednesday and everything was fine. The baby's heartbeat was healthy. Two days later, I realised that I hadn't felt the baby move. When we saw the midwife, she couldn't find the heartbeat. We drove to hospital and we were told that our baby had died." Rebecca says nothing prepared her for the news. Charles picks up the story: "I can remember driving to the hospital in tears. We were so worried but I suppose we still hoped that the baby would be all right. Unfortunately, our worst fears were confirmed and we stayed at the Royal for the next three days. Rebecca gave birth to our son. We called him Thomas William. It was the hardest thing in the world to cope with. But the team at the hospital were very kind to us. I sat and held Tommy for a long time. We said our goodbyes." Losing a baby, says Rebecca, is a terribly hard thing to cope with. She said: "I went from the hospital, straight to my parents and I stayed there for three weeks. You feel like you're the only one to lose a baby – but of course, that's not the case. No- one knows how you are really feeling. It is a very lonely time. Everything you had planned has been turned upside down." The couple had decorated the baby's nursery and had been out buying things for their new arrival. For Rebecca, going home and facing all that was too much to handle. “It is such a very difficult time," she said. "People don't know what to say, family and friends don't know how to react. It's all very sad and very difficult. Your life has gone from back to front and there's nothing you can do. Everything you wanted has disappeared. It is truly horrendous." Today, Rebecca and Charles, who runs his own auction house, Hansons in Etwall, quite simply prefer to write off 2012 as a "bad year". Charles said: "We remember Tommy every day but the cancer is something we like to distance ourselves from.” ”I was unwell. Spending Christmas Day in hospital wasn't much fun – but I had to face it and fight it. I actually came home in the afternoon and had some Christmas dinner. "Rebecca and Charles vowed to make 2013 a happier, healthier year and made plans to thrown themselves in their work. With a busy auction house to run and various TV deals, Charles knew he had to get back to full fitness. But that didn't happen. "The cancer came back," said Charles. “A year after first being diagnosed, I was told that the primary cancer had spread. The doctors said I would need more surgery and chemotherapy treatment. I was so busy running the sales room but all my staff were fantastic. We so wanted to get our lives back to normal but it didn't quite work that way." While Charles started chemotherapy treatment, Rebecca was rushing back and forward to hospital for another reason – she was pregnant again. The pair underwent IVF to conceive their daughter, a decision the couple had made during Charles's cancer treatment. "I lost my hair," said Charles. "I now know what I look like bald," he laughed. "And boy, was I ill. I was still trying to go to work. I bought a hat and wore it. In fact, I quite liked it," he smiled. Rebecca was monitored closely during her pregnancy because of what had happened to Tommy. Every three weeks, she went to hospital to see a midwife and check on the baby's heartbeat. Rebecca said: "Every time we went, our hearts were in my mouths. We worried so much about the appointments and when everything was OK, we all breathed a sigh of relief. Then, three weeks later, we had to do the same thing again. The pregnancy was stressful but that's because we were so concerned about the baby. After losing Tommy, we couldn't help but feel anxious.“ Charles only missed filming one series of Bargain Hunt. He says he tried to keep his life as normal as possible. "I love all the telly stuff, so I was disappointed that I couldn't take part, but I had to have treatment. The BBC was very supportive. I hate letting people down so I felt a bit miserable. Staff helped me run the auction house and when I felt well, I went in.” Charles started filming yesterday (27th August, 2014) for the autumn series of Bargain Hunt. But his TV appearances do not stop there. He is also a familiar face on the Antiques Road Trip too. "It's all good for me," he said. "It's exhausting and I have to work very hard. But when you love your job, you do it. I am very proud of what I have achieved. I never, ever take it for granted." Every one of us must think about fame, what it would mean to our lives and all the perks it would bring. It is, perhaps, less easy to envisage the disadvantages of being well known and regularly in the public eye. Derbyshire auctioneer Charles Hanson is certainly a familiar face to millions through his regular television appearances. But fame offers no immunity to personal pain and tragedy, as Charles and wife Rebecca have discovered over the past two years. They have had to suffer the sort of traumas all of us pray that we never have to encounter – a cancer diagnosis for Charles, the loss of their first child and then a return of the cancer. Those who have suffered that sort of anguish understand the temptation of wanting to withdraw from human contact as far as possible as they slowly come to terms with straightening out their lives after such stressful upheaval. It is never straightforward, often misunderstood by others who want to help. How much harder it must have been, then, for a public figure such as Charles, still busily engaged in his high-profile career at local and national level while still coming to terms with his threatening illness and his family despair. It is to the immense credit of the couple that, having emerged on a high with the arrival of baby Matilda, they feel willing to talk about their ordeal. That is not just to satisfy the morbid fascination which some have far the lives of the famous. As Rebecca says, when you lose a child the pain you feel makes it seem as if you are the first to endure such anguish. Then the realisation comes that others have suffered in a similar way and more will inevitably do so in the future. A problem shared is a problem halved is a glib saying which can never be realistically equated with such a scenario. But the willingness of the Hansons to discuss their experiences can only help those unfortunate enough to find themselves in such circumstances. And their highlighting of the work of organisations such as Derby SANDS, the stillbirth and neonatal charity, will bring welcome publicity to a valued and undersung group.
Supporting anyone affected by the death of a baby and promoting research to reduce the loss of babies’ lives
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5 April 2019
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