Having cancer has stopped me sleepwalking through life

The super-positive UK Radio 1 DJ Adele Roberts tells Lisa Salmon that, although her bowel cancer has been an ordeal, it’s also one of the best things to have happened to her.
Having cancer has stopped me sleepwalking through life

Adele Roberts hopes to get back running marathons

A CANCER diagnosis is the worst thing that could happen to most people. But Adele Roberts isn’t like most people - and reveals that “in a weird way” it has been a positive experience for her.

Just a year after the chirpy DJ was diagnosed with bowel cancer, she says that while she’s felt very poorly after going through surgery and gruelling chemotherapy, the whole ordeal has changed her perspective on life for the better.

“In a weird way, it’s probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” she admits. “I feel it’s stopped me sleepwalking through life, stopped me moaning about stupid stuff that doesn’t matter, and it’s made me appreciate the small things in life - the free things in life - and family and experience, and realising there’s so much good in this world.”

Admittedly, the 43-year-old’s admirably positive outlook may be coloured by the fact she got the all-clear from the disease in June. Nevertheless, it’s obvious that right from her diagnosis in October last year, Roberts has done her best to stay upbeat.

Indeed, after having surgery to remove the stage 2 tumour and having a stoma put in, she cheerfully named the stoma Audrey.

“Stomas affect people in all different ways, mine just seems to be a very naughty one,” she laughs. “She’s my naughty little friend. I called her Audrey, as she reminds me of the plant on Little Shop Of Horrors - it starts off really cute, and then it gets big and really naughty.”

Roberts, who rose to fame in the third series of Big Brother in 2002, explains she was told she might have to have a stoma on the same day she learned she had cancer.

“So, because all I could hear was ‘cancer’, I was like, ‘Yeah, get the stoma in - give it to me!’,” she recalls. “She’s the reason I’m alive. I just knew it would help me get better, that’s how I’ve always seen it - like it enhances my life, it doesn’t take anything away from it.”

Adele Roberts
Adele Roberts

Other things that enhance Roberts’ life are music and exercise - the combination of which has helped her through her cancer ordeal.

Before her illness, she ran the London Marathon twice, for mental health charity Heads Together (headstogether.org.uk), and says: “That’s what started my journey with understanding how good movement is for mental health, and how much it can make you feel good.”

Running clearly means a lot to her, but she can’t do it at the moment, as the chemotherapy affected her skin and left the soles of her feet “really badly cut up” and sore, and with anaemia, which can make her breathless.

“I want to save my energy for my life day-to-day, rather than doing extra,” she says. “So it’s walking rather than running at the moment.”

Her voice cracks with emotion as she says: “I would love to be fit enough again one day to run a marathon, even if I have to walk it, that would be amazing. Hopefully one day...”

She always listened to music when she ran, and chuckles: “I almost had to be careful with the music I put on my playlist, because I’d get too excited and run too fast.”

Roberts’ love of music and how it can be a wellbeing booster is what convinced her to get involved with BupaHealthTracks campaign (bupa.co.uk), which has created a playlist of motivational songs people most associate with their daily health and wellness wins.

The playlist of more than 23 hours of music includes classics such as The Beatles Here Comes The Sun, and Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen, and was chosen by 4,000 UK adults, curated by DJ and presenter Gok Wan, and contributed to by celebrities including Roberts. “I’ve added loads,” she says. “I’ve Aretha and Whitney, and loads of house music, as I love my dance music, and definitely Chaka Khan’s I’m Every Woman. Music and movement really helped me deal with my feelings, and once I’d realised that was a good marriage for me, I kept doing it - it’s almost like my daily medicine and my mobile meditation. It just makes me feel good.”

And feeling good is definitely where she’s at at the moment, although she’s still got a lot of recovering to do, and stresses: “My body’s quite tender at the moment, so it’s just being gentle with myself and realising my body’s been through a lot, and I have to allow it to heal itself gently.”

But although she’s on the road to recovery, Roberts, who took part in I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here in 2019, is keen to highlight her symptoms, which she thinks first started to appear when she was in the Australian jungle.

“Mentioning my symptoms could really help people - I wish I’d seen something like that when I was worrying about it,” she says.

It wasn’t until she was seeing blood regularly when she went to the toilet that she finally sought medical help and cancer was diagnosed.

“Luckily, it was stage 2, but it was very nearly stage 3,” she says.

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