Andrea McLean won a fresh army of fans with her grit and humour on Celebrity SAS – but some of her struggles were out of the limelight.
The Loose Women star has fought off crippling anxiety caused by the menopause.
But today she feels she is finally out of the woods, thanks to cannabis oil.
A GP prescribed propranolol pills, which helped enormously, but then she heard about CBD hemp oil and gave it a try.
It worked. Andrea said “It has massively taken the edge off things with the flushes and it has made me less anxious because anxiety is still a key thing for me.
“Unless you have experienced it like I have, where it feels like there is a tiger in the room, then no one really understands what it is like. It is awful. Before I started taking CBD oil my doctor recommended taking propranolol and it did change my life within a week. I am on the lowest dose and it has literally made me feel like a different person.
“It is not an anti-depressant but what I no longer feel is that sensation of being on high alert.”
Andrea, 49, has suffered from various forms of anxiety for much of her adult life, although she doesn’t get as many attacks nowadays.
She said: “I’m a lot better, although I have still been known to cancel an hour before I am due to go out. Then I hate myself for it.
“I find being in social situations overwhelming. I lack confidence and I feel stupid. This is going to sound weak, in that ‘now she has to have a man in her life’ way, but since being with my husband Nick I am so much better.”
She married businessman Nick Feeney in November 2017 after meeting him on a blind date in 2014.
Andrea said: “He is gregarious but understands me well.
“When I’m feeling anxious, he’ll give my arm a squeeze and say, ‘Are you OK?’”
She has certainly had enough in her life to feel anxious about.
The presenter had a hysterectomy in September 2016 after battling with endometriosis and the perimenopause for years.
She went on to develop vasculitis – where her immune system began to attack the healthy blood vessels. The condition can shut down organs.
Then late last year she had her third breast cancer scare when she discovered a lump but was relieved to be given the all-clear.
An ambassador for Breast Cancer Care, she became the oldest ever participant in Channel 4’s Celebrity SAS for Stand Up to Cancer, contracting hypothermia in the process.
Through it all, she impressed viewers with her determination and sense of humour.
Now she is backing her Loose Women colleague Coleen Nolan, 54, who is stripping for cancer charities in ITV’s The All New Monty: Ladies Night on Tuesday.
Andrea says: “Coleen is incredibly brave to do it and she will be fine. She is a brilliant dancer and is a very sexy lady. I would be more nervous to do it because since having all my operations my tummy is covered in scars.
“I often see people doing a double take when they see my scars. I used to be embarrassed about it but not any more because I am older and more body confident.
“I was proud to strip off for the Loose Women Body Stories campaign a couple of years ago. I’ve had a hysterectomy and I’ve had three hernias – all at the same time – where they had to cut me open and stitch me back up again. I have a scar from my belly button to my pubic bone.
“I will definitely be wearing a bikini this summer and beyond. I am due to turn 50 in October but I won’t let that stop me.”
Andrea says her husband has no problems at all with her scars.
She said: “He has grown to love me and says it’s part of who I am.”
The former GMTV weather presenter – mum to Finlay, 17, with her first husband, BBC producer Nick Green, and 12-year old Amy with her second, Steve Toms – says even her children are aware of how she is ageing.
“I’ve had Botox done about five times but now it’s all worn off my kids say, ‘Why are you cross, mummy?’
“It’s because I am frowning at my phone because I literally can’t see.
“I’m looking into having lens replacement because I am short-sighted. And I’m hoping that getting my eyes fixed means I don’t have to squint at my phone.
“Then I won’t need Botox any more and I won’t look so angry all the time.
“It is the same operation as for glaucoma. They take the lens out and they insert a new one. You then have 20/20 vision for the rest of your life.
“I can’t read now without my glasses. On Loose Women when I look at my notes and I can’t see them at all, I keep whipping my glasses on and off on air.”
Andrea is contemplating a neck lift too. She said: “When I get to the point where I think, ‘No, come on, woman, your neck is getting scraggy, then I will do it.’”
Her pal Katie Price, 40, has had her third facelift – and Andrea recalls how Loose Women colleagues begged her not to. She said: “When Katie was on Loose Women she would come in and go, ‘Right I have made an appointment.’
“All of us, like sisters, would ambush her and say, ‘No. You are beautiful. Stop fiddling with your face.’
“But she would laugh at us and do it anyway.
“We’d always welcome her back to the show but she has got enough going on and obviously wants to spend time with her lovely mum. We loved her to pieces. There was a feistiness there. When the ‘Pricey came out’ it was hilarious.
“We all felt protective because we saw the real Kate, who is a very lovely, genuine, warm and caring woman.
“She is quite vulnerable. She doesn’t always show that because she likes to come out fighting.”
Since Andrea has written her book Confessions of a Menopausal Woman and set up her website thisgirlisonfire.co.uk, she has been determined to help other women and is hosting a well-being workshop at the Mind Body Spirit Festival in London.
She said: “Clearly as you can see I have been through a lot in my life physically, mentally and emotionally but I really do believe that your past does not define your future and all of us have a strength that we don’t tap into enough and I want to encourage others to find that.
“Just because you have been through incredibly difficult times, they don’t have to define you.
“Us women need to remind ourselves that we are incredible and that we can keep on going.
“Everyone has greatness in them. It’s about relighting the fire in everybody so they can be the best they can be. I’m 50 this year but just because I am halfway through, then it doesn’t mean I am halfway done.”
- Andrea’s workshop Relight Your Fire is on May 26 from 11-12.30pm. See Londonwellbeingfestival.com.
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