Carol McGiffin, 64, and husband, 43, at home in France - Loose Women feud, bikini body and cancer ten years on

Carol McGiffin, 64, and husband, 43, at home in France - Loose Women feud, bikini body and cancer ten years on

Carol McGiffin and her husband Mark Cassidy look relaxed and absolutely besotted with each other during our gorgeous exclusive shoot in the south of France.

When we catch up – in a vineyard at the Hotel Saint Vincent in Saint-Tropez, an hour and a half away from their home – they are the first to admit that outspoken Carol and softly spoken Mark are like chalk and cheese. Still, opposites attract, and the bond between these two – who secretly married in Thailand in 2018 – is clear to see.

They have been through a lot together. Carol, now 64, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer 10 years ago, and she says Mark, 43, was a “total angel” throughout her gruelling treatment and road to recovery, which included having her left breast removed, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Now, the couple are enjoying every moment of their idyllic French lifestyle, and being happy and healthy – and are extremely thankful that former Loose Women star Carol made it to this major milestone. It’s one that at times, she admits, she didn’t think she’d reach.

Here, outspoken as ever, Carol opens up about her tough cancer journey, Mark’s unwavering support and plans to renew their vows…

Carol McGiffin laughing with husband Mark
Mark has always been there to support Carol -Credit:Claire Macintyre

Carol, how are you? It’s been 10 years since the end of treatment of your breast cancer. This is a special year for you, isn’t it?

Carol: I’m feeling good – happy. And, yes, it’s a bit of a milestone. They say if you can pass 10 years after cancer, you’re almost in the clear. I don’t like to think like that, but it is amazing that I’ve made it 10 years. I had the triple negative [cancer] and all the stuff I read about it was, “You can’t have hormone treatment,” or, “There’s a bigger chance of it returning…”

The fact that it hasn’t – as far as I know – is quite unbelievable. I keep low-key and hope to God it doesn’t come back. I don’t shout about it as, for me, that’s tempting fate. And millions of women, sadly, go through what I have. I’m here and enjoying life.

Were there points when you worried that you might not make it?

Carol: I’ve been thinking that ever since the diagnosis. Sometimes you think, “There’s no point in planning too much, or having a breast reconstruction, because it’s going to come back and that’s going to be that.” I kept putting off breast reconstruction for that reason. Now I feel like it’s too late for all that. I was getting checked out for every twinge at the beginning.

Now, I don’t. I feel good for my age, so I don’t want the stress of constantly searching for something that’s not there. I want to live my life. And Mark has been brilliant, through it all. A total angel. It’s a surprise to see how hard it is for someone that loves you.

Carol and Mark on a beach
Carol and Mark secretly tied the knot in 2018 -Credit:Claire Macintyre

It must have been a heartbreaking journey for you too, Mark. Watching Carol go through this…

Mark: It has [been], and it’s always there in the background. Ten years ago, I barely knew what chemo or radiotherapy was. It was a steep learning curve. Back then, I had no clue about any of it. Seeing how brutal it can be, it was a scary time. But talking to each other helped us get through. You change your lifestyle and it becomes the new normal.

Carol, you lost your beloved sister, Tracy, in January 2017 – that must have been difficult. Were you angry that cancer had taken your sister?

Carol: It was very hard. She didn’t even make her 54th birthday a month later. I remember her saying, when she was diagnosed, “Well, you got through it so I’m going to be OK,” and very quickly, she went downhill and wasn’t. When you have survived this long, everyone you know uses you as their benchmark. When it doesn’t work out for them, it’s utterly heartbreaking. She was way too young.

Has it given you a different outlook on life?

Carol: I’ve always lived this way. But I certainly didn’t put anything off. I’ve always had a “do it now” attitude. Mark and I have always done things spontaneously since we got together – book a train to Paris, take that flight and drink the wine!

Carol McGiffin laughing
Carol joked that she loves the odd glass of wine -Credit:Claire Macintyre

You and Mark live a pretty healthy existence in France, don’t you?

Carol: Oh, we eat so healthily! Fresh and mostly organic food. I think the worst thing we might eat is a slice of pizza! Yes, I do like my wine – as you can see…

You look incredible, especially in a bikini. Do you ever feel self-conscious?

Carol: Not about the fact that I’ve only got one boob, no! Only because my body has changed as I get older. I look back at pictures of me at 22 and think, “Oh, I don’t look like that any more.” But it doesn’t stop me wearing a bikini and going to the beach. I don’t get hung up on it – life’s too short.

I think it’s because my mum never had any hang-ups about her weight and I never heard the word “diet” growing up. It’s only when I became a teenager that I realised it’s quite possible to put weight on if I ate a lot of crap – it was a real revelation. I had to stop! I don’t eat badly because I don’t want to be overweight as it makes me feel like s**t.

Mark, what do you think of this amazing lady at 64?

Mark: I think she looks incredible. She’s fabulous inside and out but yes, she’s got a cracking pair of pins!

Carol: I think the reason I still feel about 40 is my outlook, but also that I haven’t got kids. I think children remind you every day that you used to be their age.

Mark: Carol has more energy than me, I’m the “old person” in this relationship.

Carol: He’s got his slippers and pipe ready.

Carol McGiffin bikini
Carol looks sensational in a bikini -Credit:Claire Macintyre

You two are very different. What’s the secret to your relationship?

Mark: Carol’s obviously louder and I’m quieter, I think we balance each other out.

Carol: Mark’s quieter socially, and, well, I talk to anyone. Mark also pays a lot of attention to detail.

Mark: I don’t know where you’re going with this…

Carol: Like, if he’s cooking, he measures everything. At our home here in France, everything has to have its place, ideally put away. I don’t mind the occasional mess! And we do get on each other’s nerves in the kitchen! “Too many cooks” is definitely a thing. But if I cook, he comes in like a baby elephant and makes a mess. We fought recently about the pink tiles I wanted for our bathroom. They did take a bit of selling. Apart from the little things, we’re very happy.

People are intrigued by the age gap between you two. Is it a thing for you?

Mark: I think people are interested in that, but once you’ve spent 16 years with someone, you love the person – everything else is irrelevant. In an ideal world, it would be great if we were the same age, but we’ve accepted it.

Carol and husband Mark
There is 22 years between Carol and Mark -Credit:Claire Macintyre

Carol: It bothers me sometimes. If I feel tired and haven’t washed my hair and look awful, I feel like I look older than I should. Especially in foreign places such as Thailand. People there are used to very old men with very young girls – but not women with younger men as partners.

Mark: It’s definitely more accepted here in France than in the UK – nobody bats an eyelid.

Carol: People aren’t so judgemental here, whereas back home it’s all about our ages. I hate the word toyboy, we both do. It seems to be the last bastion of acceptable discrimination!

You must feel that you’ve proved the doubters wrong, though…

Carol: I think so. Initially the papers were saying, “Give it five minutes.” So, it’s nice to be able to prove everybody wrong. But it’s not about that, it has nothing to do with anybody else. We’re still here – can you believe it?!

You got married in a secret ceremony in Bangkok in 2018. Would you ever renew your vows in your beloved France?

Carol: Yes, we have talked about it. When we tied the knot, it was very under the radar. There is part of me that thinks a big celebration with friends and family would be lovely. Quite a few people were upset that we got married without them! But I also don’t think it’s something either of us would actively do anything about.

Mark: We have tables and chairs and thousands of glasses here in the house, so we could!

Carol and husband Mark Cassidy
Carol and husband Mark love living in the south of France -Credit:Claire Macintyre

It’s clear that you both adore France. What is it about the country you love so much?

Carol: Everything. It’s their way of life. Their joie de vivre. The French don’t live to work, they work to live, which I love. They care about long lunches and everything closes on a Sunday. If they don’t like something they march, they protest – I love that mentality. And of course, it’s the food, the markets, the wine, the weather. It’s not hard to love. And the winters are gorgeous too, it’s still sunny. We love a vineyard – especially this one!

Is there anything about London you miss when you’re away?

Carol: I used to love flying back to London to do Loose Women, but travel got more difficult and Loose Women got more difficult… I don’t miss it at all. They say if you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life – but I’m definitely not, I’m over London. Mark and I really value the time we have here, just us two, when we’re not working. We have our special restaurants, like the Colombe D’Or.

Mark: I miss a good Sunday roast in a traditional pub.

Speaking of Loose Women, you left the show last year, Carol. Do you ever miss it?

Carol: I do. It was once a great job. It doesn’t really have many alternative opinions now. And I do watch it occasionally to remind myself that I made the right decision. I don’t regret leaving – I don’t fit in there any more. Someone, somewhere will be offended by absolutely everything. I'd rather not be on a show that panders to that.

Carol McGiffin stands in a doorway
Although she finds the show "boring" now, Carol still keeps in touch with her former Loose Women co-stars -Credit:Claire Macintyre

It’s boring – and I won’t be told what I can or can’t say. I’m still very good friends with a lot of the Loose ladies though. Denise Welch popped down here with Lincoln [Townley, her husband] last year and we met them for lunch. I’ve seen Kaye [Adams], Jane [Moore] and Nadia [Sawalha] a few times. Some, I have nothing in common with. As I said to them, 'You’re not friends, you’re just people I work with, who I really like.' Which horrified them.

Mark: Oh, I remember being at work and on the show they’d be talking about Trump or Brexit and my phone would be going off and I’m thinking… “Right, what’s she saying now?!” But I’m dead proud of her. A lot of people don’t have the courage to do that, and she goes out there guns blazing.

Have you been in touch with Ruth Langsford since her split from Eamonn Holmes was announced?

Carol: It’s always sad when a relationship breaks up. But it’s sadder when you’re so in the public eye. It’s really hard. Everyone’s speculating, everyone has a theory. I’d put everything I own on the fact that a lot of it is b******s. I feel for them both in that respect. I love them both, I’ve worked with them both, been at parties with them both.

It’s really sad but I haven’t, as they say, “reached out” to Ruth yet. She’ll be inundated and won’t want to hear from me, right now! I’ll send her a message when I know what’s really going on, not before. Otherwise, you’re just adding to the noise.

What else are you up to right now, Carol?

Carol: I’m still doing my podcast with Nick Abbot, called What’s Your Problem? With Nick Abbot And Carol McGiffin. We’ve done over 300 episodes – impressive in podcast terms. It’s bloody hilarious. We masquerade as agony aunts but we just have a giggle, really. And I’m working on my second memoir, which has a title but I can’t tell you what, as it’s too good and someone will nick it!

This one picks up where the last book left off – from 2010 to the present day – our move to France, the cancer and Loose Women. There’s a lot of life to talk about. But, it’s summer now and it gets very hot where we live, so it might be time to take a little break.

Carol and Mark were at the Hotel Saint Vincent and vineyard. For more information, visit

Photographer: Claire Macintyre, photographer’s assistant: Coco Kliks, videographer: Anthony Bac ou