When I was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer in 2018, I kept it a secret from my wider friends and family. I was 45 at the time, and working as a private tutor while writing a book: I wanted to be seen as Lisa the career woman, not Lisa the cancer patient. I didn’t want to burden anyone else with my diagnosis. So I have sympathy for Helen McCrory, who chose to keep her cancer a secret and carried on with her charity work until a few weeks before she died. I had begun feeling very tired and had some blood in my stools when I first realised I was unwell. This initially held me back from telling people, as the symptoms felt very intimate. Eventually, I went to see a doctor: I fainted in the consultation room when I got the diagnosis. At first, only my husband and my son knew. Telling my son was awful: he was working towards his GCSEs, and I felt so guilty for the added burden. A few months later, I was forced to tell my parents and my twin sister because I was going to have a stoma fitted – even then, I swore them to secrecy. I felt like I was living a double life; at times, I thought it would be easier to be run over than live with cancer. On the really bad days, it felt like I was slipping down a dark tunnel with no light at the end. The secret also put pressure on those around me, forcing my parents to bottle up how they felt too. In spring 2019, I received the devastating news that the cancer had spread to my lungs. I had another surgery to remove the tumour, and more chemotherapy, which made me very sick and I began to lose my hair. At this point, I realised I had to accept my diagnosis rather than fight it. Friends reacted with a mixture of shock and having their suspicions confirmed; I started seeing a counsellor, and channelled my sadness into writing. The cancer is now stable, and I’m taking every day as it comes. Though no longer a secret, I still struggle to talk openly about it. As Helen McCrory’s death shows, you never know what someone is going through behind closed doors. For information and support on cancer, contact Macmillan’s support line on 0808 808 00 00 or visit the website Read more: 'My mum kept her cancer secret too – and it's left a lifetime of sadness'