Bill Turnbull on the decision to reveal his prostate cancer: “I don’t think anything I’ve done has had quite the impact that this did”

The former BBC Breakfast presenter, who revealed his cancer diagnosis in Radio Times last March, talks chemotherapy and adjusting to the "new normal"

Bill Turnbull, Getty, SL

Bill Turnbull has spoken out about his decision to reveal his prostate cancer diagnosis in Radio Times magazine last March.

Advertisement

Writing for the new edition of Radio Times (available from 16th October), the former BBC breakfast presenter said that the reaction to his announcement seven months ago had been “extraordinary”.

“I don’t think anything I’ve done has had quite the impact that this did. Radio Times broke the story on its front cover, with a beautiful article written by my old Breakfast sofa pal Sian Williams. The effect was extraordinary,” Turnbull said.

The broadcaster had previously filmed a Bake Off special in aid of Stand Up to Cancer, before learning he had the disease himself. He then recorded an epilogue for the episode, which aired in March, following his diagnosis.

“The Bake Off episode, with a rather weepy epilogue from me, gained an audience of nearly six million, and donations to Stand Up to Cancer afterwards exceeded expectation.

“There followed a Twitter avalanche of support from friends, colleagues and people I’d never met, wishing me all the best…. if love could have cured me, I’d be a healthy man now.”

Turnbull also wrote about coming to terms with his “new normal” and coping with chemotherapy, after his doctor asked him to increase his six rounds of treatment to ten.

Bill Turnbull, Radio Times, SL

“It felt as if the chemo was now taking on a character of its own, like some malevolent gremlin. It would take me on. Grind me down. During the bad phases, I wondered if I’d ever recover from feeling sick and tired and depressed.”

He added: “After the eighth round of chemo in July, I asked the consultant to release me from the treatment. I just couldn’t bear it any longer. We ended up doing one more, and then called it a day. When I was first diagnosed, my PSA (prostate-specific antigen) level – the standard marker, determined by a blood test – was 583. It should have been less than five.

“We got it down to the 50s, so we’ve made some progress. The cancer has stopped spreading, but it hasn’t been beaten back entirely. We’re at a stalemate.

“If the chemo had worked completely, I’d get two years off treatment before the cancer reared its ugly head again. Instead I’ve been given a couple of months off. After that, we’ll try something else.”

Prostate Cancer UK told Radio Times that the day Turnbull’s news broke, their telephone service recorded its busiest ever day, with calls up by 400 per cent.

Angela Culhane, Chief Executive of Prostate Cancer UK said: “The impact of Bill Turnbull sharing his story is clear. Awareness of prostate cancer is increasing and more men are having potentially life-saving conversations with their GP, coming to us for more information and spreading the word.”

Stand Up to Cancer airs on Channel 4 on Friday 26th October from 7pm


Advertisement

Read Bill Turnbull’s full article in Radio Times’ brand new issue, on news stands from Tuesday 16th October