SARAH Harding has opened up about coming to terms with her mortality, revealing she wants "FFS" as her gravestone epitaph.
In her brilliant autobiography Hear Me Out, Sarah writes about her treatment and being being told that Christmas 2020 could have been her last.
She says: “I keep thinking about funerals at the moment. It might sound morbid, but it’s hard not to at this stage — cemeteries, plots, burials, what kind of send-off I’d like and how it would all go.
“I’ve also thought about an epitaph for my grave. I’m thinking ‘FFS’ might be a good one.
"It’s probably been my most used phrase throughout this, with one crappy event following another. ‘For f***’s sake!’ ”
The poignant remark is one of many in the book, which follows Sarah’s life from childhood through to her ongoing battle with advanced breast cancer.
The 39-year-old singer, who was diagnosed with the disease last summer, pulls no punches and gives a brutally honest version of her life — and loves — across its 309 pages.
In it she revealed Robbie Williams begged her for a date at the height of the pair’s fame.
The Girls Aloud star says she refused to take his number because she was already dating — only for persistent Robbie to surprise her during a recording of Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway the following year.
Sarah recalls the episode, after Girls Aloud’s first trip to the Brit Awards in 2003. The band were invited to the Universal Music after-party, where she chatted to Robbie.
She recalls: “We got on really well — in fact I felt a real connection between us. We spent a lovely time together and I liked him but I didn’t think anything else of it.
“A week or so later, I got a call from one of our TV team at Polydor. ‘My friend Robbie wants your number’, he said.
"Wow! I mean, I hadn’t even been in the band that long, and here was one of the world’s biggest music stars asking for my number. As tempted as I might have been, I knew I couldn’t respond.
“Not long after that, we were performing on Saturday Night Takeaway and Robbie turned up at the ITV studios — even though he wasn’t a guest on the show that week.
“I was surprised, to say the least. I even remember him trying to wangle a few minutes alone to talk to me.
“But with the other girls in the mix, I’d reverted to feeling like an ugly duckling. So unconfident.
“After the show, Robbie went out to a nightclub with Kimberley and some of our dancers, but for some reason I didn’t get wind of it and missed out.
‘THEY WERE SO BAD, THOSE GIRLS’
“I regret missing out that night. I liked Robbie very much, and I’d have liked to have got to know him better then, even just as a friend.
“Can you imagine what might have happened if I had got together with him, given both of our histories?
“What a couple we’d have been, tearing around town! I sometimes think I’d like to rewind, just to see what might have been.”
From the inception of Girls Aloud in 2002, after they were announced as runners-up on ITV talent contest Popstars: The Rivals, stunning Sarah was earmarked as the hell-raiser.
However, it was her bandmates Cheryl Tweedy, Nicola Roberts and Kimberley Walsh who were the real pranksters of the group.
Sarah reveals how the trio played endless tricks on Hillary Shaw, their renowned manager at the time, with tall tales about her and the group’s fifth member, Nadine Coyle.
Sarah writes: “They were so bad, those girls, particularly Nicola, Kimberley and Cheryl. Nadine got involved in the pranks sometimes, but I never did.”
The girls’ pranks include one occasion when they told Hillary that the police were outside the hotel and that Nadine was going to be arrested for not paying her taxes.
Another joke, back in 2006, involved the group telling long-suffering Hillary that Sarah had passed out naked in the lobby of a swanky hotel in China, leading Hillary on a wild goose chase — while all along Sarah was safe in bed.
Sarah complains that she is often seen as the troublemaker of the band, but she writes: “I think not! They were sneaky little buggers sometimes, those girls!”
Over their eight-year career, Girls Aloud had four UK No1 singles and four UK top ten albums.
Their pitch-perfect pop performances landed them 21 Top Ten singles and in the months running up to their tenth anniversary in 2012 they were crowned the biggest-selling British girl group of the 21st Century.
During their heyday, the group flew all over the world, during which time Sarah gained her party-loving reputation.
In the book she recalls one particularly wild night in Moscow, following a private gig, when she drank until dawn with Nadine and Eighties icon Boy George.
The trio got very drunk in the hotel bar with the gig promoters until the tour manager turned up and told them they had half an hour.
The drinkers wondered what he meant, and assumed he was indicating that they had half an hour until the bar closed.
It turned out he meant that Sarah and Nadine had half an hour before they had to leave for the airport to fly back to London.
Sarah says: “In those days, it didn’t seem to matter how much I partied on tour, I was always fine the next night as long as I got enough sleep. Nowadays, I get out of breath going to and from the Co-op.”
Like many big-name stars, with Sarah’s rise also came the fall — and she writes candidly about her experiences in rehab.
And although she makes it clear this was an extremely difficult time in her life, the singer’s mischievous spirit still shines through.
At a clinic in South Africa, for example, she organised a contest, Rehab’s Got Talent, as an activity for the rest of the group.
Brilliantly, during another stint at a wellness clinic, Sarah recalls how she broke out of the centre — and ended up in a doughnut shop.
She writes: “I was always trying to sort my head and body out. I once did a strict detox in a clinic in Austria with my friend Steve, where you had colonics, lymphatic drainage, liver wraps and the like.
“It was meant to clear out our systems, but we were always starving.
"We ended up cycling for miles in an attempt to find something sweet to eat, finding sanctuary in a doughnut shop where, realising we were from the clinic, they took pity on us.”
What is breast cancer and how does it spread?
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK – with one woman diagnosed every ten minutes.
While most women can get breast cancer, it is most common in women who are over the age of 50.
According to Cancer Research UK, breast cancer starts in the breast tissue.
Breast cancer develops when abnormal cells in the breast begin to grow and divide in an uncontrolled way and eventually form a growth.
Most invasive breast cancers are found in the upper-outer quadrant of the breast.
If it’s not diagnosed and treated it can move through the lymph or blood vessels to other areas of the body.
Each year in the UK there are around 55,200 new breast cancer cases.
This equates to around 150 new cases a day.
It also accounts for 15 per cent of all new cancer cases each year.
If the cancer is diagnosed at its earliest stage then 98 per cent of people will survive the disease for five years or more.
If it is diagnosed at the latest stage, then just 26 per cent of people survive for five years or more.
What are the four stages of breast cancer?
Stage one: The cancer is small and only in the breast tissue – but can also be found in lymph nodes close to the breast.
Stage two: The cancer is either in the breast or in the nearby lymph nodes or both.
Stage three: The cancer has spread from the breast to the lymph nodes or the skin of the breast or the chest wall.
Stage four: The cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
What are the signs?
- A lump in the breast or armpit
- Changes in the positioning of the nipple
- Nipples leaking in women who have not had children
- Skin changes
Alongside her incredible music career, Sarah has also made waves in the acting world.
She landed film roles alongside Rupert Everett and Gemma Arterton in the St Trinian’s franchise and starred alongside Danny Dyer in 2012 film Run For Your Wife.
But despite working with some major stars, Sarah admits her nerves were worst while appearing in Coronation Street.
Recalling her role as Joni Preston on the famous cobbles in 2015, Sarah compared it to her appearance in the 2008 thriller Bad Day, in which she coped with learning several pages of dialogue for a scene on the phone in the back of a car.
But when it came to Corrie, after two or three lines with the iconic Rita Sullivan in The Kabin, Sarah admitted her knees turned wobbly.
She has also had stints on several reality shows, including Celebrity Big Brother in 2017 which, despite the fact she won, she describes as a “disaster waiting to happen”.
I was always trying to sort my head and body out.
She also reveals how she was in the running for a role on The X Factor in 2011.
Her management were so keen for her to get the judging job they had a wig made for her in the favourite shade of show boss Simon Cowell, but ultimately she just missed out.
Sarah adds: “I wasn’t convinced I had the right temperament for it, to be honest.
“I can barely sit still for five minutes, and I knew how gruelling those filming days could be.”
While Sarah and her bandmates grew apart during their three-year hiatus from 2009, Sarah says they grew close again after her cancer diagnosis last year.
The women reunited at Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire for a weekend together late last year, and while Sarah admitted she was nervous at them all being together in the same room after seven years apart, the meeting could not have gone better.
Sarah is now living in a new flat with her mum Marie and is supported by a legion of friends, including her bandmates, who are in regular contact.
In the book Sarah also reveals her plans for a legacy which would help to raise money for charities such as Macmillan Cancer Support and The Christie Charitable Fund, which provides enhanced services for the Christie cancer hospital in Manchester.
She says: “What I’d really love is to put on some sort of charity gala or big fundraising event by way of a massive thank you.
“Even if I’m not around to see an event through, I need to let the people there know how grateful I am to them for all they’ve done for me.”
- Hear Me Out, by Sarah Harding, is out now, priced £20. Donations can be made to The Christie Charity at christie.nhs.uk.
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