She describes herself as having ‘hair like Demi, and a gob like Dyer,’ but when we meet Lauren Mahon, it’s immediately clear that she also has huge heart and a genuine openness that’s not easily matched.
Her journey and work to date demonstrate that – while life may deliver unexpected blows – with support, we can get back up, steady ourselves, and decide which punch to deliver in return.
As 2019 draws to a close, Lauren – broadcaster and founder of charitable business Girl vs Cancer – shares her reflections on living with trauma, embracing a much-needed period of hibernation, and why family and the upcoming festive season gives her all the feels…
The last time I saw Lauren Mahon, she was walking across a field in the bright August sunshine, rocking her dark cropped hair and a bright fuchsia puff-ball sleeve dress, paired with heavy black boots. She was fresh from giving a talk at Fearne Cotton’s inaugural Happy Place Festival, and had truly ‘owned the room’ (well, tent) throughout her solo presentation.
If you had seen her in that moment, you may have thought that she was the picture of confidence – but, as we know, appearances rarely reveal the whole picture.
In reality, Lauren wasn’t doing too well. Only a couple of hours before the talk, she’d mentioned that her anxiety levels were far beyond the norm for her. The day had been full of highs in terms of personal and professional achievements, but she was struggling with her mental health.
“Things have been up and down since then, if I’m perfectly honest,” Lauren shares, three months later over a cuppa at the Happiful December photoshoot. “My work can be quite intense emotionally – because I’m telling my story. But I think a lot of the time I live above myself, almost like a third person, above my own body. I go and talk about my experiences, but sometimes it’s honestly like I’m talking about somebody else.
“It’s not good, but at some point, I detached a little bit emotionally because I’ve had to, to survive. And I think that’s how I coped with my cancer.”
Lauren was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2016 and threw herself, almost immediately, into raising awareness of the impact of living with the disease. During her treatment, she created a community on her existing blog Girl Stole London, for people to share experiences and support each other.
Thanks to Lauren’s personality, energy, and drive the community grew massively, and the GIRL vs CANCER strand of her work is now its own entity and a business which donates a chunk of profits from the sale of campaign apparel, as well as all money from events, to four cancer charities close to her heart.
Lauren subsequently became the co-host of the multi-award winning Radio 5 Live podcast You, Me and The Big C in early 2018, and now speaks regularly at events and festivals, heads up advertising campaigns, and has branched out into even more broadcast work. Her warm open-book approach to life, down to earth matey delivery and sense of humour made her an instant hit with audiences up and down the country.
From her social media and press presence, Lauren looks very much like a woman who never stops; someone who is positively seizing the moment and every hour of every day. “I make myself busy as a coping mechanism, so I don’t think about what I’ve gone through,” she responds when we talk about her perpetual state of being busy.
Things are happening in my life that are unreal, I want to feel them and live in them
She’s realised that comes with a downside for her: “It means I’m not giving myself the headspace to connect and process what’s going on, to look at what I’ve done that day and think ‘Wow, that was amazing.’
“Things are happening in my life that are unreal, and I want to feel them and live in them.”
Amazing things really have happened. Not only has Lauren emerged as a successful broadcaster and speaker, she’s also received a large amount of professional accolades, making it onto the BBC 100 Women 2019 List, Marie Claire’s Verified Influencer List and winning a Stylist Remarkable Woman Triumph Award.
Lauren is positively grateful for these moments (she practices gratitude by journalling every night), but also recognises that cancer and her recent way of working has had a negative impact on her mental health and wellbeing. This is something Lauren is now addressing.
“I made a positive step in September,” she shares proudly. “I started seeing a therapist.
“And don’t get me wrong,” she hesitates before continuing, “I know a lot of people probably can’t afford that. And to be honest at the beginning of this year, I couldn’t afford that. But I’ve had some really nice jobs come in and I’ve just siphoned that money to the side for my mental health.
“I thought, even if I can do this for just three to six months, it would be good to have a space every week for me to process the trauma of what’s gone on, and it has really helped me to stand back a bit and look at how I’m living.”
The therapy is clearly having a significant impact upon her, although the process, she says, was a tough one to begin with. “Every single time I’d been to see the therapist, until last week, I sat in the chair and sobbed for an hour, physically shaking with anxiety and stress.
“And at some point I had to sit back and think ‘I’ve done this to myself. I’ve put myself in this situation’. I’m still in cancer mode, thinking that tomorrow isn’t promised, so there’s an urgency in everything I do... And actually, I have to stop and allow myself some space to be happy.”
Lauren’s therapist has encouraged her to reflect on the difficulty of the past months and what she wants and needs, in addition to what the future may hold. One exercise in particular, really stayed with Lauren.
Her therapist encouraged her to draw herself and think about her different positive personal traits.
“I drew a shape like a gingerbread man,” she laughs. “So God knows what that says about how I look at myself! Then, she asked me to close my eyes and think about myself – Lozza, not Lauren, because Lozza is who I am to my friends and my family and myself. I started to put words on the picture, and I sat back and said: ‘There she is.’ It was like, ‘Fuck! I’m still here!’ Underneath everything, I’m still me.”
To read more of Lauren's exclusive chat with us, where she shares why family is so important to her, pick up the December issue of Happiful in our shop now, or in supermarkets from Thursday 21 November, or subscribe to read for free online.
Follow Lauren on Instagram @iamlaurenmahon
Check out Tit-Tees at girlvscancer.co.uk – they make perfect presents and you’ll be supporting four cancer charities with each purchase.