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George Alagiah health: BBC star opens up on living with stoma after bowel cancer treatment

George Alagiah, 63, who is living with stage four bowel cancer, was first diagnosed in 2014. After receiving the all clear the following year, he later confirmed the cancer had returned in 2018. In a new podcast in partnership with Bowel Cancer UK, he opened up on living with a stoma after his treatment, having had an ileostomy, where the small bowel is diverted through an opening in the stomach and a bag is worn to collect waste products. “I used to find [it] difficult – I had a stoma but I didn’t look disabled,” he said, speaking about his “guilt” at using disabled bathrooms.

“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 [was there], I used to feel guilty and feel like I needed to apologise and explain.

“The reason you need to go into a disabled loo is that you just need a little bit of space, to get the contents of your blue bag out and the sanitising equipment and so on,” George explained.

The BBC favourite also said he had to have his suits adjusted altered because of the stoma bag.

“As a man, and wearing a suit for work, I had to get my suits taken out and wear braces, and so on, because it was higher up,” he said.

“I [was] always looking around at my colleagues and thinking, ‘Can they smell anything, can they hear anything?’”

“Before I was presenting the news, I used to be a foreign correspondent, and I used to have this bag, a satchel, which had everything I needed — at the drop of a hat I could get on a plane and I knew I could do my work,” he revealed.

“And suddenly this blue bag (a stoma kit bag) became my new thing that I would take everywhere.”

George went on to say he hadn’t wanted his wife to see his stoma, but needed her help when he arrived home from the hospital.

“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,” he said on the podcast.

“I went back up to the bathroom to try and 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.”

George underwent reversal treatment meaning he no longer has the stoma.

He is still living with sage four bowel dancer, but returned to work on screens earlier this year.

After his first instalment of the BBC News following his absence, he thanked his fans for their support.

“Thanks to all for good wishes,” he told his 43,000 Twitter followers.

“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.

“So good to be back in the newsroom. Overwhelmed by so much support from so many. Thanks to all.

“I’m still a cancer patient so will take a while to find a work schedule that fits with ongoing treatment,” he continued.

“I’m determined to get behind that studio desk as often as I can.”

In Conversation With George Alagiah: A Bowel Cancer UK Podcast can be found at www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/podcasts.


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