Actor Clara Darcy has shared her remarkable story of life, love, dancing and brain surgery on BBC Radio 4.
Her play ‘We Should Definitely Have More Dancing’ was inspired by her experiences after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at the base of her skull called a chordoma, in July 2019. This slow-growing type of cancer at this location affecting the deepest vital parts of the brain and cranial nerves is found in fewer than 25 people in the UK every year.
By the time Clara was diagnosed, her tumour had reached the size of a fist. A week later, Salford Royal Neurosurgeon and Geoffrey Jefferson Brain Research Centre Strategy Lead Professor Omar Pathmanaban led a successful 14-hour operation to remove it.
After that, she had eight weeks of proton-beam therapy, a pioneering form of radiotherapy.
The Manchester team have the largest experience of surgery and proton beam therapy for these rare tumours in the UK and treat patients from across the country and further afield.
Only a month after finishing treatment, she began working with writer Ian Kershaw on the life-affirming play, which is based on the notes and diary she kept at the time.
She explained: “I didn’t want to forget anything – particularly not knowing if my brain would ever work in the same way again, if I would ever remember any of it or if I would even be the same person coming out the other side of surgery.
“I really wanted to tell the story, and the actual process of writing it was therapeutic and cathartic.
“I would not still be here if it weren’t for the exceptional care I received from the NHS at every step of the way. It felt incredibly important to share my experiences and lessons learned, particularly as I am very much one of the lucky ones. When you have a near-death experience, you can’t help but come back from it with a whole new perspective on life.”
The life-affirming play even features an actor playing Prof Pathmanaban, who said: “It’s a huge honour and novel experience for me to be characterised in this fantastic production, I encourage everyone to listen and experience Clara’s remarkable journey through her personal dramatization.”
In its original form as a stage play “We Should Definitely Have More Dancing” premiered at Oldham Coliseum last year and toured the country before ending at Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It was published as a playtext before being commissioned for Radio 4 and is available on BBC Sounds.