Byline: Catherine O'Brien
To the casual observer, Julia Thomas's country kitchen is a temple of modern domesticity. Your eye gravitates from the slate floor to the stainless steel range cooker and scrubbed-oak table - at the centre of which is a plate of exquisite home-made cupcakes. Perfectly formed sponges iced in an array of pastel colours or fulsomely frosted in swirls. I'd like to say they are too good to eat, but it is not long before a lemon and vanilla concoction is melting in my mouth while Julia opts for a dainty lavender number.
Six years ago, when she was 42 and nine weeks pregnant with her first child, Julia, a former City businesswoman, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her world turned upside down and for many months she feared she could lose her baby and her life. Today, her fridge door is adorned with photographs of her five-year-old son Charlie, and Julia herself is a picture of glowing health. Her recovery has given her a new lease of life - and, in a totally unexpected way, it has led to her new career as an award-winning cake-maker.
'I cringe when I hear people say that cancer is the best thing that happened to them, because I don't think for one minute that it ever is,' she says. 'But I've learnt that it isn't necessarily the worst thing that can happen to you either.'
Now 49, Julia has the calm demeanour you might expect from someone who managed the [pounds sterling]10-million-a-month corporate billing …