When Dan met Sue Perkins

Dan JeffriesAcromegaly, Bristol, Culture, Interview, media, pituitary, Rare Disease1 Comment

I hadn’t planned on going, but when a friend asked me if I’d like to see Sue Perkins talk at the Colston Hall, I figured it would be a shame to miss it.

I like Sue. I like Mel and Sue as a double act. And, unashamedly, I love Bake Off. So it seemed like a good opportunity to hear some of her life stories — and I was particularly intrigued to know if she was going to talk about her pituitary condition too.

You see, Sue has a Prolactinoma, which is a benign tumour (adenoma) of the pituitary gland that produces a hormone called prolactin. It’s not quite as serious as Acromegaly (it’s the most common of the pituitary tumours), but Sue’s story had been covered by the press and it would have undoubtedly affected her life in some way. Tonight might be a chance to find out how.

As Ha and I made our way to our seats, it was clear that we were pretty far back. Not great when you’ve got eyes like mine. We still had a pretty good view though and as the audience took their seats, it was clear to see that I was one of the few men in the theatre. This was going to be fun.

Sue Perkins Spectalces Prolactinoma

Waiting for ‘Spectacles’ to start…

The lights dimmed and Sue walked on to rapturous applause. There’s no denying that she’s a big household name and I was interested to see how the format of the show would reflect her book, especially as I had presented my story to Pfizer only a week before.

Surprisingly yet somewhat reassuringly, the format of her show was rather similar to mine (or should that be the other way round?). There was a big screen showing pictures and images from her life, accompanying the story she was telling on stage. Of course Mel’s image popped up from the very start. I personally felt that Sue spent quite a long time on her childhood – perhaps too long – and there was scope for anecdotes about how she got into TV work, for example. The intermission came and my friend and I sat and waited for part two, perhaps slightly underwhelmed by the content so far.

The second half of the show was more of the same: stories, anecdotes and readings from the book. But this was kept short, as Sue now moved into the final section of the show: Q&A. A flurry of hands went up, including mine. I had a question to ask, and I knew it wouldn’t be the usual one.

The first question was ‘what was your favourite moment on Bake Off?’. A valid question, but one Sue no doubt hears during every show. After waxing lyrical about one of the contestants for ten minutes, she then asked if there were any more questions. I shot my hand up again, but she picked someone near the front. He asked about ‘Supersizers’, a show Sue had worked on with Giles Coren and Sue proceeded to revel in some wickedly funny tales about the making of the programme.

And then it was time for one last question. I shot my hand up again (bear in mind I am right at the back of the Colston Hall!) and this time she pointed in my direction. I turned round to see a lady behind me with her hand up too.

“No you go ahead”, she said. How nice. I cleared my throat and waited a beat.

“As a fellow pituitary sufferer, I wondered what it was like discovering that you had a pituitary condition and whether this had affected your career and life in any way?”.

There was a noticeable shift in the room. Up until this point it had been all bants and laughter, and now I was asking Sue about her brain tumour. She took a moment, clearly not expecting to be asked such a question.

For the next ten minutes she spoke about discovering that she had Prolactinoma and the impact it had on her life. She discussed the symptoms and how she had been told she was infertile (insensitively), the support from her family, the procedures she had to go through and – by the end – delivered a rousing ‘Hurrah!’ for the NHS and the brilliant work they do. The audience erupted into applause, giving her the biggest and best response of the night. I smiled. I couldn’t help but feel a little bit responsible.

Being the canny self-publicist that I am, I had brought a copy of ‘Me, Myself & Eye’ along with me. I thought I would just leave it behind reception and ask someone to give it to Sue after the show. But as we were leaving the auditorium, we could see some activity and it was clear that Sue was going to do some book signings. This was an opportunity not to be missed.

Ha and I waited in line, watching keen and hungry fans eek every possible second from being with Sue, to the point where security were virtually dragging people away. A few minutes later it was my turn.

“Hi. I’m the one who asked you about your Prolactinoma”, I beamed.

“Hey! Do you have that too?”

“No – I have Acromegaly.”

“Oh man. That’s the bad one?”

“Yeah. That’s the bad one. But I’m OK now. How are you?”, I asked.

“I’m OK. I’m on different medications. What do you take?”

“I’m on testosterone injections and Ramipril.”

“For your heart? I’ve heard of that. How are you finding it?”

“Yeah it helps. You should look into it.”

I could see the security eyeing us up as we were having quite an intimate chat.

“I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve bought you a gift.”

I handed her a gift bag with a copy of the book inside.

“This is my memoir, about living with another rare condition – and then discovering I had Acromegaly.”

“Fantastic! Once the show is over, I will definitely read this. Are you on Twitter?”

And with that we spoke a little more before having our pictures taken and kindly being asked to move on my security. As we made our way to the exit, I turned round and stopped and watched Sue engage with her public, and pondered over what we’d just been through. Even celebs are humans too.

That night I posted up the photos taken of myself, Sue and Ha and told the story of what had happened. The next day Sue reposted it to her profile. It’s been seen by over 40,000 people.

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One Comment on “When Dan met Sue Perkins”

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