Authors: Cheryl Cole
Tags: #Biography & Autobiography, #Entertainment & Performing Arts
Keep Calm and Soldier On.
Rachel Murphy – thank you for helping me write this. We’ve had laughter and tears, and I’m THRILLED with the result! Ha ha.
Carole Tonkinson, Victoria McGeown, Anna Gibson, Georgina Atsiaris, Steve Boggs and everyone at HarperCollins – thank you all so much for making this such an easy and enjoyable process.
Solomon Parker, Eugenie Furniss and Claudia Webb at WMA – thank you for giving me this opportunity and starting me off on the right path.
Richard Bray and Ailish McKenna at Bray & Krais.
Seth, Sundraj, Lily and Garry – thank you!
Thank you to my team, my loved ones and all the amazing people I have in my life – and lastly to all the arseholes who have crossed my path and made it so colourful!!!
‘Can I have your autograph and a picture?’
I was totally stunned. Was this person really here, asking me to sign my name and pose for a photo?
‘Well … can I?’
The woman was staring at me hopefully, holding a camera up and pushing a bit of paper towards me.
‘No, absolutely not,’ I stuttered. I was flabbergasted. Disgusted, actually.
This wasn’t a fan at a Girls Aloud concert or someone waiting outside the
studios. The woman was a cleaner at the London Clinic where I was being treated for malaria.
I’d literally nearly died just days before, and now I was lying in bed looking and feeling so weak and ill, and trying to get my head around what the hell had happened to me. The cleaner stuffed the camera in her apron pocket and looked quite put out, as if I’d turned down a perfectly reasonable request.
Derek was horrified, and he leapt up and showed her the door. He’s one of the most kind and sensitive and gentlemanly men I have ever met, but I swear from the look in his eyes he wanted to kill that woman.
I stared at Derek in disbelief. How had my personal life got so tangled up with my job and my fame that other people no longer treated me like a human being?
‘Am I going to die?’ I’d asked a nurse on my first day in intensive care. There was a pause before she told me plainly: ‘There’s a possibility.’
Her words didn’t shock me. I was so exhausted that I actually felt relieved. ‘If I am dying, just hurry up and make it happen,’ I thought. ‘I’m too tired. For God’s sake, make this end.’
I spent four days in intensive care at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases and was now out of danger, but I was still very ill. My body felt incredibly weak and I’d been drifting in and out of sleep and consciousness for days. My head was heavy and foggy and it was so uncomfortable even just to lie down.
‘I’ve survived,’ I thought in the moments after the cleaner was shown out of the room.
‘But what’s happened to me? Who
Being in hospital is hell. All you can do is lie there and think. I couldn’t walk. I was stuck in bed with machines bleeping all around me, trying to make sense of how and why I was here, and what my life had become.
My life was crazy, and it had been that way for a long time. The way the cleaner treated me was just the latest proof of how mad it was. She didn’t stop to think that I was a living, breathing woman who had been at death’s door. I’d been asked for pictures at inappropriate moments many times before, but this one topped the lot in terms of cheek and weirdness.
I shut my eyes and thought back to earlier that day, when I’d been taken for a lung scan. I was dressed in a hospital gown and I had filthy hair that was so greasy it looked like I was wearing a cap with long pieces of hair sticking out from under it. I hadn’t showered or been out of bed for a week and my face was yellow with jaundice, but in that moment I didn’t care. It was just amazing to be on the move instead of lying in bed, attached to tubes and machines. As I was wheeled down the corridor I could feel the air blowing through all the hair that wasn’t stuck to my head. I honestly felt like a girl in a shampoo advert, wafting my hair about in the breeze.
All of a sudden a little girl pointed at me excitedly.
‘I swear that’s Cheryl Cole!’
Her words changed my mood in a heartbeat. As soon as she spoke I didn’t feel free any more. I felt exposed and extremely uncomfortable.
‘Take me back to me room,
,’ I immediately said to the nurse.
I was so taken aback that I’d been recognised, in here. The hospital should have been a haven for me, but it wasn’t. I didn’t even
like me, yet the girl still recognised me and she must have been poorly too. I felt mortified. I had no privacy, absolutely nowhere to hide. That’s how I felt.
In hindsight I can see the funny side of that story and I don’t blame the young girl for reacting the way she did. I was in a very dark place then, though, and I just couldn’t see any light at all. When the cleaner asked for my autograph and a picture not long afterwards, it was like a light going on.
I had grown up wanting to be a pop star, but I had never anticipated this level of fame. Nobody could have prepared me for this. I’d followed my childhood dream and I’d achieved it, and so much more. I should have been happy, but I felt like my life was not my own at all, on any level, not even when I was recovering from a serious illness. It was out of my control, and as I lay in my hospital bed I could see that I had to make changes, or I would end up going completely crazy.
It’s more than two years since I had malaria, and now I feel sure I had it for a reason. It’s almost as if it was God’s way of forcing me to stop and get off the rollercoaster ride my life had become. It made me take a good look at myself, and that is what I have done.
It’s only very recently that I’ve felt strong enough to talk about what’s gone on in my life, and to start to put things in perspective.
I actually feel grateful for everything that’s happened, the good and the bad, because my life has been amazingly colourful and eventful. Incredible, in fact. Now I finally feel ready, and strong enough, to open up my heart and tell you all about it.
If anyone had asked me to describe my life when I was a little girl growing up in Newcastle, this is what I would have told them:
I’m seven. We live in a massive house in Byker. Little Garry sleeps in with me mam and dad, I share a room with our Gillian and Andrew, and we all have bunks. Joe, who’s our big brother, has a room all to himself. He’s a big teenager, seven years older than me, and so I hardly ever see him. One Christmas, me and Gillian definitely seen Santa though, and at Halloween we definitely seen a witch. I like magical things, and the
Chronicles of Narnia
is one of me favourite TV programmes. Me dad plays the keyboard and is always sayin’ to me: ‘Go on, Cheryl, I’ll play something and you make up the words.’ Me Nana made a tape of me when I was three. She wrote on it: ‘Little Cheryl Singing’ – and I was so proud.
Top of the Pops
is always on the TV and I tell me dad: ‘I’m gonna be on there when I’m bigger!’
‘Cheryl, sweetheart,’ he says. ‘You’ll need to get a proper job when you get big!’ He works really hard as a painter and decorator and me mam stays home and looks after all us kids. She tells me, ‘Follow your dreams, Cheryl. Do what your heart tells you.’ Me mam’s very soft and gentle but
I’m too soft!
‘That guy’s just punched him senseless!’ I heard me dad say one night when he was watching a boxing match on the telly. I cried all night long, thinking to meself, ‘When’s that poor man gonna get his sense back?’ ‘Honest to God, Cheryl, you need to toughen up,’ me mam said.
Gillian’s four years older and Andrew is three years older than me. Everyone says they’re like two peas in a pod, so close in age they’re like twins. I was four when our Garry was born and he’s the baby of the family. Me, Gillian and Andrew like playing fish and chip shops in the back garden. We use big dock leaves for the fish, me dad’s white paint is the batter and the long grass is the chips. Andrew’s always telling us daft stories that can’t be true and making us laugh. Me and Gillian make up dance routines and pretend we’re in
, but Gillian’s a proper tomboy. She went to disco dancing classes once but didn’t like them at all. I absolutely
dancing. I do it all; ballet, modern, jazz and ballroom after school, and on the weekend. I’ve done it since I was three and I’ve been in shows and pantos and all that. ‘Show us your dancing, Cheryl,’ everyone always says, and so I do, all the time. I love it.