Who is George Alagiah? What veteran BBC newsreader has said about his cancer battle

George Alagiah has said he feels “lucky” for the life he has lived as he gave an update on his cancer battle

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

In a new interview, George Alagiah has said he feels “lucky” for the life he has lived, despite saying that he believes his cancer will “probably get me in the end”.

In a conversation with Craig Oliver, for the former Downing Street director of communications’ podcast Desperately Seeking Wisdom, Alagiah talked about living with the disease.

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What did George Alagiah say?

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.

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