Casualty star Amanda Mealing explains why Casualty is highlighting the complexity of cancer recovery
Sometimes in TV land fact and fiction fold over on each other. In the case of Connie Beauchamp’s recent harrowing cancer storyline in Casualty, actress Amanda Mealing knows this only too well, having been diagnosed with cancer in 2002.
Thankfully Amanda, who plays Connie, has made a full-recovery and, since then, has talked openly about her experiences of treatment and recovery, in the hope she may help someone else. The Casualty star is also an ambassador for Breast Cancer Care and has run marathons on their behalf!
Here we talked to Amanda Mealing about filming Connie’s latest storyline, which highlights how cancer recovery is complex and sometimes goes beyond being given the all clear
There’s an expectation that you will be buoyant once treatment is over. Is it important to address the fact that recovery isn’t a straight line?
“Absolutely. It’s now being acknowledged cancer patients and cancer survivors experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Once the medical aspect and what I used to call ‘the day-to-day combat’ has finished everyone assumes you’re okay now.
“But that’s only the starting point of the psychological and emotional stuff, and is a very genuine concern for a lot of people. So we have Connie going through this, as it’s really important to acknowledge that, just because the medical treatment is finished, it isn’t over for a patient. Having been through cancer myself I’m aware of just how complex the recovery process is and how long it goes on for, so I was keen we acknowledged that.”
This Saturday in Casualty Connie gets a specific shock that sets her back. What can you reveal?
“Maggie, one of the patients Connie was on the oncology ward with is admitted to the ED and she’s in quite a desperate state. It flares up Connie’s survivor’s guilt because she’s been able to get better and go back to work.”
What effect will we see this having on Connie?
“She becomes incredibly anxious because Maggie is someone she’s been through treatment with. I personally know what that’s like. How can you go through so much and someone else go through something similar yet be worse off?”
How does Connie deal with these strong and scary emotions?
“Connie starts to become paranoid about her health, and begins constantly checking herself on heart monitors. She starts to doubt the medics and fear they’ve missed something.”
It’s really brave of you to talk with us about something so personal
“Thank you. I survived. There are a few close friends and family who haven’t survived so I feel I’ve been given a chance to put forward the journey and highlight it because, particularly with breast cancer, it can be difficult for women to talk to their family as their identity is caught up in it. The more we talk about it, the more we take stigma out if it…”
… And the more we can understand there’s another aspect to the healing process?
“Yes, and that’s really important, I think. Post-traumatic stress is a very real thing. It can manifest in very small ways and for some people in very debilitating ways. If we acknowledge it then we can make it easier for people to step forward and say, ‘I know I’ve been given the all clear but I’m still not well’.”
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Casualty continues on Saturday on BBC1.