Baroness Joan Bakewell: My cancer diagnosis has made me ‘more contemplative’

Baroness Joan Bakewell has said her cancer diagnosis has made her “more contemplative” as she reflects on how she wants to be remembered.

The 89-year-old veteran broadcaster was diagnosed with colon cancer late last year and has since had surgery and is undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

Despite the treatment, she is still determined to work and is currently filming the TV painting competition Landscape Artist Of The Year for Sky Arts.

Sky Women in Film & Television Awards – London
Baroness Joan Bakewell (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

In an interview with The Times weekend magazine, Lady Bakewell said: “I’m finding the whole process fascinating.

“I have a little bumbag and in it is a plastic ball full of chemotherapy drugs. It’s fed into a hole below my shoulder and I wear it for 48 hours at a time.”

She added: “It’s inconvenient, of course, for work, but I’ve only missed one day’s shooting, and it’s quite hard to sleep at night, but as I tend to wear extremely loose clothes now no one’s noticed it.”

The presenter, who has had a career spanning more than 50 years, said she “luckily” has not had depressions, lassitude or a loss of hair due to the treatment as of yet.

Lady Bakewell, whose sister died aged 58 from cancer, revealed she had let her colonoscopy checks slip during lockdown and when she went for a routine one last year it revealed a growth which she later had removed.

“Now I’m campaigning to get everyone to check everything regularly as they age and send off for those kits where they can check if you have blood in your poo,” she said.

Reflecting on how she feels following the diagnosis, she said: “Cancer has made me more contemplative. Our time comes up after a certain time and obviously mine will be up fairly soon one way or another.”

Lady Bakewell is one of the longest-surviving female interviewers on British television, having first carved out a path in the male-dominated television industry of the 1960s.

She said Sir David Attenborough, 96, checks up on her occasionally to ask if she is still working, adding: “We aren’t competitive; it’s comfort.”

The presenter added that she does not feel the progression in women’s roles in the media is down to her, explaining: “I felt I was beating my fist against a brick wall when men at the BBC told me no woman could ever read the news.

“Look at the women now; confident, gracious, insightful. It’s marvellous, but I don’t feel it’s due to me.”

However, she does want to be remembered for her work, adding: “We all need a purpose, to put a footprint on the earth.

“I am a jobbing journalist, informing and entertaining. I hope occasionally I have brought to the public’s attention what I consider injustices to the world.”

The full interview can be read in The Times magazine.