The BBC’s George Alagiah has opened up about feeling “embarrassed” about living with a stoma following his treatment for advanced bowel cancer.
The newsreader, 63, was diagnosed in 2014 and given the all-clear a year later, but in 2018 he announced his cancer had returned.
Speaking on a new podcast in partnership with charity Bowel Cancer UK, George spoke about the difficulties of having to live with a stoma following an ileostomy, which sees the body’s waste steered into an external bag through an opening in the skin.
George, who no longer has the stoma, revealed he used to find it “difficult”, particularly when he had to use a disabled toilet.
He explained: “I would be turning the key in a disabled loo in a motorway service station or something. And if there was a queue and somebody obviously disabled, I used to feel guilty and feel like I needed to apologise and explain.”
The BBC favourite said he often found there was an “embarrassment factor” in social situations, and would take Imodium when going out for an evening to ensure he wouldn’t need the toilet.
George also said he initially didn’t want his wife of 34 years, Frances, to see the stoma.
But on one occasion, when he first came home from hospital, she had to give him a hand because it had leaked.
He explained: “I remember thinking that I didn’t want my wife to see it, and what happened was I got home and for whatever reason it started leaking.
“I went back up to the bathroom to try to clean myself up – we had just sat down for what I hoped would be an intimate evening, we’d poured ourselves some drinks – and there I was, in the loo, this thing kept spurting out and my wife had to help me.”
Although still living with bowel cancer, George returned to work earlier this year after taking time off to focus on his health.
The day before he returned in January, his fellow BBC News colleague Sophie Raworth announced the news on the show.
She tweeted the following morning to tease George about trying to ease back into work without any fanfare and he responded: “There goes my hopes of slipping back into the studio unnoticed! Thanks to all for good wishes. We’ve got the cancer in a holding pattern so it’s back to work with colleagues I respect and the viewers who make it worthwhile.”
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