George Alagiah: I’m lucky for the life I’ve had, but cancer will probably get me in the end

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George Alagiah has said he feels “lucky” for the life he has lived, while acknowledging that cancer will “probably get me in the end”.

The BBC newsreader, 66, who was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in April 2014, said he was now able to look back and appreciate the opportunities his family had enjoyed from “a place of contentment”.

He discussed living with the disease with Sir Craig Oliver, the former Downing Street director of communications, for an episode of a new podcast called Desperately Seeking Wisdom.

Sir Craig recorded the series while on gardening leave between PR consulting jobs, discussing life lessons with the director Richard Curtis and the former Scottish Tory leader Baroness Davidson among others.

Alagiah described how he had resolved to enjoy the present moment and leave worrying to his oncologist.

He said: “I don’t think I’m going to be able to get rid of this thing. I’ve got the cancer still. It’s growing very slowly.

“My doctor’s very good at every now and again hitting me with a big red bus full of drugs, because the whole point about cancer is it bloody finds a way through and it gets you in the end.

“Probably… it will get me in the end. I’m hoping it’s a long time from now, but I’m very lucky.”

He added that when he was first diagnosed with cancer, it took him a while to understand what he “needed to do”.

“I had to stop and say, ‘Hang on a minute. If the full stop came now, would my life have been a failure?’

“And actually, when I look back and I looked at my journey… the family I had, the opportunities my family had, the great good fortune to bump into Frances [Robathan], who’s now been my wife and lover for all these years, the kids that we brought up… it didn’t feel like a failure.”

In October, Alagiah’s agent said he would be taking a break from broadcasting to deal with “a further spread of cancer”.

The newsreader and author underwent 17 rounds of chemotherapy to treat advanced bowel cancer between 2014 and 2015, and returned to work in November 2015 after being given the all-clear.

But in 2017 he was told that his cancer had returned, and was again forced to take a break from his role with the BBC, returning in 2019 following another round of treatment.

His stage four progression meant he was given only a 10 per cent chance of surviving the next five years, and warned that had he been screened earlier, his cancer could have been detected and dealt with.

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