George Alagiah focusing on life not death as cancer spreads

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EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 21: BBC News presenter George Alagiah at the Edinburgh TV Festival on August 21, 2019 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ken Jack/Getty Images)
BBC News presenter George Alagiah says he is too busy living to worry about his cancer diagnosis. (Getty Images)

BBC newsreader George Alagiah has said he has no time to worry about death as his cancer spreads – because he is busy focusing on living.

The 64-year-old BBC News At Six presenter is undergoing further treatment after doctors found cancer had now spread from his bowel to his liver, lymph nodes and lungs. He also tested positive for COVID-19 in March.

Alagiah told BBC Radio 5 Live of his recent diagnosis: “I saw some of the headlines actually about it and thought: 'Oh my God, are they talking about me?’ I thought it was time to start ordering the white lilies.”

He went on: “I look at him [the doctor] when he gives me news like the news he gave me earlier this year, that it had spread. I look in his eyes and he didn't look frightened so I'm not frightened.”

Presenter and newsreader George Alagiah in the BBC World News studio, 01/07/2008 (Photo by Jeff Overs/BBC News & Current Affairs via Getty Images)
George Alagiah was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2014 and it has now spread to his live, lungs and lymph nodes. (Getty Images)

Alagiah said: “I take my cue from my doctors and they don't look scared to me. I've known them now for six years.

“In fact I said to one of them a couple of years ago that he better do the worrying for me because I can't deal with that.

Read more: George Alagiah 'gutted' to withdraw from BBC newsroom amid coronavirus

“I'm not going to spend the time I've got worrying. I want to spend the time I've got living and doing the things I want to do and enjoying my family and friends.”

And the newsreader said he has starting enjoying socially-distanced visits from his family as the coronavirus lockdown restrictions have eased.

He said: “We've started over the last three weekends, actually doing the whole marching them through the house and into the garden.

News reader George Alagiah at Buckingham Palace, after collecting his OBE from the Queen.
George Alagiah received an OBE in 2008 for his services to broadcasting. (PA)

“What's really, really, really difficult is my granddaughter, because she's 18, 19 months and does she get social distancing? No, she doesn't get social distancing, and it's so hard.”

Father-of-two Alagiah was treated for bowel cancer in 2014 and was initially given the all clear in 2015 after 17 rounds of chemotherapy. In 2018 he revealed that he was ill once again, saying at the time that he felt “positive” as he prepared to battle the disease for the second time.

Read more: BBC's George Alagiah reveals hardest part of living with a stoma

He recently told The Times: “My doctors have never used the word ‘chronic’ or 'cure' about my cancer.

“They've never used the word 'terminal' either. I've always said to my oncologist, ‘Tell me when I need to sort my affairs out', and he's not told me that, but what he did tell me is that the cancer is now in a third organ. It is in my lungs.”

The NHS website says that bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK, and that most people diagnosed with it are over the age of 60.

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