Who is George Alagiah? Does newsreader have a wife - what did he say in update about bowel cancer diagnosis

George Alagiah has previously said he feels “lucky” for the life he has lived

George Alagiah has spoken about his cancer (Photo: Getty)George Alagiah has spoken about his cancer (Photo: Getty)
George Alagiah has spoken about his cancer (Photo: Getty)

News presenter George Alagiah is taking a break from being on television after learning that his cancer has spread.

Alagiah’s agent, Mary Greenham, confirmed the news about the BBC presenter, who has been battling bowel cancer for six years.

It comes just months after Alagiah said he feels “lucky” for the life he has lived, despite saying that he believes his cancer will “probably get me in the end”.

So, what has been said about Alagiah TV break, and what has he previously said about his health?

Here’s what you need to know.

Why is George Alagiah taking a break from TV?

Alagiah was first diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in 2014 and has stepped back from presenting intermittently for treatment since then.

The journalist had returned to the BBC’s News at Six in April, but he will once again step away from his job as he has been told that his cancer has spread further.

In a statement, Alagiah said “it’s back to the tough stuff” after a scan showed his cancer had spread further.

“I’m missing my colleagues”, he said, adding that he was looking forward to returning to the studio “as soon as I can”.

He also said that working in the newsroom “has been such an important part of keeping energised and motivated.”

What did George Alagiah say previously about his health?

The BBC newsreader, 66, who was first diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in April 2014, said: “I don’t think I’m going to be able to get rid of this thing. I’ve got the cancer still. It’s growing very slowly.

“My doctor’s very good at every now and again hitting me with a big red bus full of drugs, because the whole point about cancer is it bloody finds a way through and it gets you in the end.

“Probably… it will get me in the end. I’m hoping it’s a long time from now, but I’m very lucky.”

He added that when he was first diagnosed with cancer, it took him a while to understand what he “needed to do”.

“I had to stop and say, ‘Hang on a minute. If the full stop came now, would my life have been a failure?’

“And actually, when I look back and I looked at my journey… the family I had, the opportunities my family had, the great good fortune to bump into (Frances Robathan), who’s now been my wife and lover for all these years, the kids that we brought up… it didn’t feel like a failure.”

Asked what piece of wisdom he would give, he said: “I think it would be to constantly ask the question, ‘What is it we can do together?’

“I spent a lot of my time in Africa, and in South Africa they have a word: Ubuntu. It’s the idea that I’m only human if I recognise the humanity in you.

“There’s this collective notion of life which I think we have lost.”

Who is George Alagiah?

Born in 1955 in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), George Alagiah is a familiar face to millions of viewers, and has had an illustrious career as a journalist.

His parents moved first to Ghana before settling in England, where Alagiah attended Durham University.

He joined the BBC in 1989, and as a foreign correspondent he reported on events including the Rwandan genocide and interviewed Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu in his role as a specialist on Africa and the developing world.

Since 2007, he has been a presenter of the BBC News at Six and in 2008 he was appointed an OBE in the New Year Honours.

In June 2020, Alagiah said the cancer had spread to his lungs, liver and lymph nodes and he has since taken a break from TV.

Does George Alagiah have a wife?

Yes, George Alagiah does have a wife. He has been married to Frances Robathan for over 30 years.

Robathan, aged 61, was the Senior Partnerships Adviser of the Fairtrade Foundation, where she worked since 2002.

She also held the position of Head of Programme Partnerships and Head of Institutional Fundraising at the Foundation.

Robathan went to Durham University, where she met her husband, with the pair marrying in 1984.

The couple have two children; Adam, aged 34, and Matthew, age 30.

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