"Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else." J M Barrie

The '90s saw her again in London and on tour with Michael Palin's first stage play The Weekend, and a range of other jobs including panto. As the decade came to a close though fate dealt Jo a sideways swipe—at the age of 21 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her reflections on this period in her life have a thought-provoking openness:

"I felt very isolated that this had happened to me and I felt like I was the only one in the whole world who could have got it at 21. I couldn’t have typed in "young person with breast cancer" on the Internet. There was no Internet. It was all very strange.

"At the time there was still a stigma attached to it—you don't want anybody to think of you as an ill person, a victim, and you don't want to be judged on it. I think I was really dead–set on it not defining me and I wouldn’t speak about it and I didn’t want anybody to know—I felt it was my business and it was something that I dealt with."

After friends were diagnosed with the same disease Jo realised how helpful it was to them to hear about her own experience and her position now is a more affirming one:

"It is behind me and I think I have helped the people I have spoken to, to show them that it is something you can absolutely get over and it won't be part of your life forever. It made me realise that I could be helpful and I am glad if I can be."

In support of charity CoppaFeel, an initiative to increase breast cancer awareness amongst young people, Jo has joined their Boobette team—a group of women who have the shared experience of having had the disease in their early adulthood who volunteer to talk about and promote self examination.

As well as going to college health days and freshers' fairs in October to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Jo joined other Boobettes in a bra-clad promotional photo shoot fronted by Strictly Come Dancing's Kristina Rhianoff.

Jo is also in the early stages of bringing together some high-profile voices to record a CD of songs with the profit from sales benefiting Breakthrough Breast Cancer. "If I am going to do this, I want the best people possible. I am hoping to sing either a solo or a duet [on the CD] but it's not about me even though it is because of my story that I wanted to do this. All I can do is ask and then see…".

With this project and her Boobette volunteering, there is a significant reversal of her earlier approach but to what extent does her past illness inform her life choices now?

"It's important to spread the word and be helpful rather than be secretive. Does it inform my life choices? Looking back on it I think it makes me think about why was I so determined to keep it quiet. It has been so long now and I have had so many experiences that it can't define who I am."