Private Lives: Our marriage was the only fatality

A Family Affair


Miranda and Franco Vicente had been married for three years when Miranda was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 23 and underwent chemotherapy and a double mastectomy. Given the all-clear medically but depressed about her body shape, Miranda decided to have reconstruction surgery. Franco, however, was against the decision. Two months ago the couple separated. Actor Franco now runs a restaurant in south Malaga, Spain, where the couple used to live. Miranda and their children - Daniela 7, and Sergio, 6 - live in London.


I'd never given my breasts much thought until I was diagnosed with cancer and had the mastectomy. Then, suddenly, they were all I could think about. At night I would dream that I had breasts, but in the morning I'd look down and see the scars.

When you're initially diagnosed with cancer, all you want to do is get better. I went on to autopilot - I never considered what I'd feel like if I survived. There never seemed time for Franco and I to talk, we'd just lurch from one crisis to the next. I got into the habit of saying that I was fine even when I felt terrible. Franco did the same.

The mastectomy changed me in so many ways. Sexually, it was as though someone had switched the light off. If I felt the odd twinge of sexiness, as soon as I looked down at my body I would instantly feel turned off. In a way the roles were reversed. I was more upset about my body shape than Franco was. I was the one turning away, which was hard for him.

He couldn't understand how not having breasts was like living with this constant shadow hanging over me. I disliked going out with the prostheses in. They're hot and uncomfortable and, whatever I wore, I didn't feel as though I looked nice. I was more than flat-chested, I was concave, and I hated the way my shape made me feel.

Reconstruction, I decided, would mend everything, but Franco and I rowed about it. He said he didn't want me to have the surgery because there was no guarantee it would work, but I was adamant. I would feel feminine again. I could wear a pretty dress and go out in a bikini. Gradually, the idea started to take over my life.

I returned to London, without Franco, for the treatment. They did one breast first and three months later they did the other side. Waking up from the first operation and looking down at myself was amazing. The doctor whispered in my ear - "We managed to do you a 34C" - and I felt ecstatic.

In London I had time to think about Franco and me. With distance, I realised that the relationship had been on a downward slope for a couple of years and, if we were honest, we weren't happy any more. After everything I'd gone through I just didn't have the energy to put the relationship back on track.

There are lots of things we could have done differently. I wasn't prepared for the deep emotional scar breast cancer leaves. I used to walk into the bathroom, take off my T-shirt and sob. But it was only in my own private time. No one else saw. Perhaps if I'd told Franco he would have felt more needed. But the man also needs to realise that breast cancer isn't about him. If you're depressed, or not feeling sexy, it isn't a rejection of them. It's about how you feel about yourself and I don't think Franco ever understood that.

I don't know what would have happened between Franco and me if I hadn't had the cancer. Perhaps the relationship was going wrong anyway - there's a big age difference between us because I'm 29 and he's 52. I'm looking to the future now and it's scary. The hospital becomes your extended family. Now I've got to learn how to enjoy the day for its normality. I will be eternally grateful to the surgeon for giving me breasts. They've helped me feel better about myself. But they haven't turned out to be the answer. I know now that I will never get back what I lost, and it's going to take a long time before I come to terms with everything.


On the same day as Miranda had her first mastectomy, my bosses rang to tell me that the series I'd been working on - the soap opera Eldorado - was being scrapped. My wife was gravely ill. It looked as though I was going to have to bring up two children on my own. And now I'd lost my job. For the next few months, until my contract ran out, I would go to work smiling, pretending everything was OK, when really I was desperate.

Thank God Miranda did recover and, after the mastectomy, I thought life could go back to normal. But the problem was that we had different ways of coping. Miranda has said since that I didn't talk to her, that I didn't ask her how she was often enough. She says all I wanted to hear was "I'm fine" because if she said that then I could just carry on as normal.

Miranda hides her feelings well. Now I wonder if I should have dug deeper, because I obviously made the mistake of thinking she was stronger than she really was. But at the same time I lived in constant terror. I wanted her to say she was fine, because if she wasn't there was a new pain which might have meant that the cancer had come back. I suppose you could say we were both in denial.

I opened a restaurant and tried to start a new career. Meanwhile Miranda was living in a small village with no one to talk to, no family or close friends nearby. Now I realise how lonely she must have felt.

People always said Miranda and I made a handsome couple. After the mastectomy, when we walked down the street people would go nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Is he gay? Is he with a transvestite? One time I wanted to punch these guys and it was all Miranda and my daughter could do to stop me. I felt like saying, "Listen you bastards. She's had cancer. Do you want to see the scars?" Miranda cried for a couple of days after that.

But I never saw the situation as Miranda losing her breasts. I was still madly in love with her. Perhaps I over-compensated but, in my mind, I fancied Miranda more than I had ever done. When I opened my eyes I never saw the scars. But she was cold, distant.

She would say that she didn't feel like a woman any more. She said she'd understand if I had an affair. But that just made me feel as though she was rejecting me. I'd sit on the sofa and we'd hold hands, but I felt nothing back from her.

I was against the reconstruction. I thought she'd been through enough. I'd seen her with drainage tubes in her arms, I'd seen her in so much pain she couldn't sleep. I said - "You're healthy again, you've got two happy kids, you've got me. Why are you putting yourself through this? There's no guarantee what it will come out like." She is such a perfectionist. I was terrified she'd hate the way she looked even more.

Earlier this year we tried a temporary separation and then, in August, she returned to Spain with the children and told me that the relationship was over. I offered to come back to England, I've suggested we go to Relate, but Miranda says there's been an irrevocable breakdown.

Why does everyone think that it's only the person who gets cancer who is the victim? Everyone around us has been affected by it - me, the children, her family.

If I had my time again I'd get us counselling. I'm sure we'd still be a couple if the cancer hadn't happened. I'm still in love with her. But I know there's no chance of us getting back together. No one wins with cancer. Miranda recovered, thank God, but I lost my wife and kids.

The documentary `Miranda's Chest' is being shown on Monday, 12 October at 9pm on Channel 4

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

    Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

    Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
    The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

    The young are the new poor

    Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
    Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

    Greens on the march

    ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

    Through the stories of his accusers
    Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

    The Meaning of Mongol

    Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible