Nicki Chapman: Presenter reveals how she and husband coped with her brain tumour diagnosis

The presenter, 52, has hosted the Chelsea Flower Show every year since 2006 but will be absent from the line-up for the upcoming event having recently undergone surgery to remove a tumour which was pressing on her brain. Already feeling better following the surgery, Nicki told the Daily Mail: “Although I feel fine, my lovely surgeon has told me I shouldn’t go back to work for six weeks. You have to give yourself the best possible chance to heal.”

Although I was petrified, I tried to stay positive

Nicki Chapman

Nicki said she didn’t think she could manage the show’s demanding 5am starts and 12-hour working days, admitting: “I’m devastated.

“I watched the preview and it made me cry,” she added. “But I have to follow my doctor’s advice. You don’t get a second chance to recover.”

She revealed she was no longer having to take painkillers and was able to take walks every day for exercise.

Having only discovered she had the tumour in recent months, the presenter only informed her closest friends and family about the diagnosis and didn’t even tell her Chelsea Flower Show co-hosts about the reason she will be absent.

“But I’m talking about it now because, although I was petrified, I tried to stay positive,” she said.

“It was the worst news I’ve ever had in my life, but I thought: ‘We’re going to find a way through it.’ 

“And I really hope that other people who get a similar diagnosis have the excellent treatment I had, and find the same inner strength.”

Nicki told the publication she made herself go into the operation with a positive mindset, banishing negative thoughts, saying she and her husband Dave ‘Shacky’ Shackleton had a “rule”: “You can only cry for 30 seconds.”

She first noticed the symptoms of the tumour earlier this year when she began to struggle with her vision.

Other symptoms, including memory lapses and her speech being affected, soon followed.

When she called her GP, they told her to go to A&E as a matter of urgency, believing she may have suffered a stroke.

After undergoing a number of tests, Nicki was informed by a neurosurgeon: “It’s a brain tumour and you’ve had it for years.”

Nicki, who was accompanied by her husband when she received the diagnosis, said she was completely shocked by the news, adding: “It’s like a gush of wind coming towards you.”

She said Shacky “went pale” while she asked the doctors what the next steps were.

She recalled her parents and best friend being supportive when she informed them of the diagnosis and said the neurosurgeon insisted they should operate soon and told her she should be “carrying on with life” within six to eight weeks.

The tumour, although benign, was the size of a golf ball and pressing on her brain.

Although positive and cheerful whilst discussing her experience, Nicki struggled to hold back tears for the first time when she spoke about the risks involved in the surgery, saying she and her husband had sat together talking before the operation.

“They’d said I could suffer a bleed on the brain during the surgery and I’d told him: ‘If anything goes wrong, I don’t want to be resuscitated and come back in a body I can’t use,’” she said.

Thankfully, the surgery went smoothly, with the presenting marvelling at how quickly she was recovering from the surgery, saying she feels “fantastic”.

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