Duchess of York, philanthropist and author, Sarah “Fergie” Ferguson, 63, is known around the world for her flaming red hair, genuine spirit and giving heart. Having been thrust into the public eye in her 20s, her journey often came with obstacles and self-doubt. But last week Ferguson faced a terrifying challenge of a new kind: Being diagnosed with an early form of breast cancer and undergoing the surgery necessary to remove it.
A representative for the Duchess of York, told Sky News on Sunday, June 25, that Sarah Ferguson had been diagnosed after a recent routine mammogram screening.
“She was advised she needed to undergo surgery, which has taken place successfully,” the spokesperson noted. “The Duchess is receiving the best medical care and her doctors have told her that the prognosis is good.”
“I want every single person who is listening to this podcast to go get checked, go get screened, and go do it,” Ferguson pleaded. Her illness “was otherwise symptom free,” and Ferguson “believes her experience underlines the importance of regular screening.”
Sarah Ferguson’s sources of strength
Throughout her health ordeal, Ferguson’s poise, positive outlook, gratitude and strength have shone through. The iconic Duchess of York is, after all, is used to pressure—not only as a mother and grandmother in the Royal family, but the author of dozens of children’s books, a memoir and a romance novel.
Add to that her vast charitable works, and one might assume that her life of accomplishment has made it easy for Ferguson to love and feel proud of herself.
But after a lifetime of struggling with her weight, the loss of her close friend Princess Diana and criticism after her public split from Prince Andrew, the late Queen Elizabeth’s second son, Sarah confesses that one of her biggest battles before her cancer diagnosis has been to love and accept herself.
Fergie’s health news came a two years after she sat down with Woman’s World to share her insights on her emotional and mental health. Here our intimate Q&A with “Fergie” on how she learned to love and embrace all of her true self, find strength and fearlessly chase abundant joy.
Woman’s World: What is a big challenge you’ve overcome?
Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York: “No matter how old I get or what I’ve gone through or accomplished, I can tell you that I’m still a work in progress, I’ve gone through many days where I’ve felt unworthy.
“But eventually, you have to sit down, put your arm around yourself like you’re hugging someone and say, ‘How do you feel? Are you really as worthless as you think?’ Then you’ll realize you’re doing better than you think.”
Self-compassion is only one half of the equation, however. The other half, the 63-year-old says, is borne of a piece of advice given to her by her grandmother. “When I was 12 years old, she told me to stop thinking about myself and give to others,” Sarah says. “I took that literally, reaching out to help those in need when I was feeling at my worst. That led me to follow my heart and help others through my charity, Sarah’s Trust. Giving makes such a difference in times of trouble, and helping others allowed me to conquer my fears and to make a difference.”
WW: How do you stay positive?
SF: “It can be so easy to look at the negative side of things in life, It’s taken me a long time to work earnestly to keep enjoying life. We may complain one week about the rain and then turn around and say it’s too hot once the sun comes out, instead of realizing that it is actually a lovely day.”
“These days, I can look at life in a joyous way—including seeing people who are struggling and finding joy in helping them feel at ease. It’s a real gift.”
“My father brought me up to be grateful, he always said, ‘Remember that the kitchen is more important than the dining room table and the drive is more important than the party.’ I always go back and thank people. When you do that with a pure and grateful heart, life is more beautiful.”
WW: How do you overcome stress and anxiety?
SF: “My favorite way to defeat stress is by doing simple things, like taking long walks with my dogs and exercising. I also love watching Netflix—I’m binge-watching Never Have I Ever, which has been great. Of course, working to learn something new is great too. Learning about different worlds and people excites and soothes me.”
“I also have a vibrant imagination, something as simple as walking with the dogs can turn into an adventure if you look at things from a different angle. For example, sometimes I would take the camera and go underneath a beautiful big pile of clover to see life from that perspective. A big clover leaf would be like an umbrella on a beach if you were an ant! We all need a little adventure in life—and small shifts in perspective help us find it.”
WW: Where do you find your strength?
SF: “When I’m needing strength, I always find it in the smiles of children and grandchildren. My grandson, August, is 2 and a half years old, and when he smiles at me, I know he is genuinely happy to see me. It makes me overflow with joy and forget about whatever is troubling me.”
“I’m also fortunate to have amazing friends and family. My children are my best friends, and I’m so grateful.”
“I also find stress relief in my charity, Sarah’s Trust, which raises money for charities I love. It allows me the freedom to follow my heart and help.
“In 1992, we helped move children hospitalized in a heavily polluted area of Poland to the mountains. It saved their lives and taught me that to give a child a smile is fine, but to give them clean air is to give them a chance at the world.”
With such resilience, strength and positivity, we need more of Sarah Ferguson’s light in the world…and hope she makes a speedy recovery.
Diane Nichols is an award-winning newspaper reporter, a published author and a worldwide magazine journalist with hundreds of stories in print. She has been writing inspirational true stories and celebrity pieces for Woman’s World since 2018 and is the published author of two memoirs: Prison of My Own and God Gave Me You, which is currently under contract with Sony Pictures. She welcomes you to visit her website at DianeNichols.com and follow her on Twitter @DNicholsAuthor.