Page last updated at 00:34 GMT, Tuesday, 30 March 2010 01:34 UK

Sugababe Amelle Berrabah talks of cancer heartache

By Neil Bowdler
Health Reporter, BBC News


Sugababe Amelle Berrabah talks about losing her father to cancer

Earlier this month, Sugababe Amelle Berrabah jumped out of a plane to raise money for cancer research.

She took part in a tandem skydive with the Red Devils, free-falling for 30 seconds before parachuting to the ground.

The cause is one to which the 25-year-old is deeply committed because long before the singer was discovered, long before she became a chart-topper with girl group Sugababes, cancer changed her life.

The timing of our interview is entirely coincidental - I have been given a few minutes with her in a dressing room just before she and the other girls are due to go on stage on the Alan Titchmarsh Show.

She enters with a big smile, and then as the camera starts rolling, she tells me it is eight years to the very day since her father Mohamed died from liver cancer.

Little warning

There was little warning. He had gone into hospital for jaundice, but soon they were told he had six months to live.

I'd never talk about it for the first year, I even resented anyone asking me about him... I didn't think they understood.
Amelle Berrabah

She pauses. "I didn't think I was going to start crying... sorry," she says, before composing herself and resuming.

"He was one of the healthiest men I've ever known in my life - always jogging, doing the marathon, really fit and healthy, didn't ever drink so, yes, it was really hard to deal with that and I couldn't really imagine life without him."

He died just a few weeks later, and although she had her chance to say goodbye, initially she felt bitter.

"It's just very hard to get over. It took me a good few years. I'd never talk about it for the first year, I even resented anyone asking me about him... I didn't think they understood."

Another strength

Looking back now, she believes the experience has strengthened her.

Liver cancer can arise in the liver (primary liver cancer) or it can spread to the liver from another site (secondary liver cancer)
In the UK, secondary liver cancer is much more common
In developing countries, most people with liver cancer die within months of diagnosis
In higher income countries, surgery and chemotherapy can prolong life in some patients
Source: World Health Organization

"I think when you go through something like that, you build another type of strength anyway, so it's not that nothing hurts you anymore, but you do get through everything a lot easier."

Her father's advice to her and her siblings - that nothing in life they want will come without hard work - has also been a driving force ever since his death.

"I almost want to do it for him as well... It did really push me that way."

So what words or advice does Amelle have for those who might be going through a similar experience right now?

"I'm not going to lie. It's very hard for someone to say to you 'your daughter or your brother or mum or dad only have a certain amount of time to live'.

"You just have to be strong for yourself, your family and for the person as well, and just stay with them, stay close to them."

High profile names can help raise awareness of a disease or condition, and bring it under the spotlight. This video series talks to those in the public eye about their personal reasons for speaking out.

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