TV’s Bill Turnbull on living with cancer: You can’t sanitise it – The Irish News

BILL Turnbull can't help but feel a little embarrassed while watching his documentary about living with cancer.

“It's a bit of a blubberthon,” confesses the former BBC Breakfast anchor (63). “I think, ‘Gosh, I wish I wasn't crying quite so much, or so often.' But, the most satisfying thing is the reaction of the people who watched it; if they're moved by it, then we've achieved our purpose.”

Turnbull first revealed he had advanced prostate cancer on The Great Celebrity Bake Off for Stand Up To Cancer last year.

Now, nearly two years after his initial diagnosis, the married father-of-three has chosen to share his story in Bill Turnbull: Staying Alive. In the intimate, one-off film, we not only see what it's like to live with cancer, but also how he's doing anything he can to learn how it can be staved off.

The journalist, who works as a presenter for radio station Classic FM, is on a new treatment, called Radium 223, “which is as radioactive as it sounds”.

“It seeks out the tumours on the bone and attempts to destroy them,” he explains.

Prostate cancer affects 47,000 men a year in the UK; every 45 minutes, one man dies from the disease. But it's also one of the least known. And, as many do, Turnbull ignored the early warnings.

“There were familiar aches and pains, same sorts of ones coming back,” he recalls. “I had an aversion to going to see the doctor, like a lot of men, because I didn't want to go to the surgery.”

Instead, he kept taking ibuprofen for the pain. His son Will finally persuaded him to go to a GP. But, by that point, the cancer had spread from his prostate to his bones.

Treatment has included nine rounds of chemotherapy, and Turnbull doesn't sugar-coat how difficult that was.

“When you start, they tell you, ‘You will have three bad days'. What used to sustain me during those three days – when you just don't want to do anything, you feel pretty awful – was I'd think, ‘Well, it's only a couple more days'. But then with each round, I started to think, ‘There's no coming out of this'.

“Three days became four days became five days… And I thought, ‘Jesus, is this going to be like this forever? Am I ever going to feel better?' And that's not a nice place to be.”

One fascinating element of the film is when Turnbull visits a man who produces and processes his own cannabis oil, before passing it on – for free – to cancer sufferers. In doing so, he risks up to 14 years in jail.

Turnbull notes that “there are at least 20 countries which… have legalised marijuana or cannabis for medicinal purposes, which makes sense really”.

CBD is a component of cannabis said to ease pain and anxiety that's legally sold in health stores; Turnbull takes it “on a daily basis because it helps me sleep and it helps me with discomfort”.

Turnbull has been very open about his cancer journey on Twitter. Will he continue to share information about his treatment?

“I don't know – we'll have to see what happens,” he says. “I'd really love to be able to tweet one day, ‘Hey I'm cancer free', but I don't see that happening, just at the moment. But you never know.

“And those are four very important words – ‘but you never know'. Because there's always possibly something around the corner.”

:: Bill Turnbull: Staying Alive airs on Channel 4 today.



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