'Are they talking about me?' BBC's George Alagiah on seeing headlines about his cancer diagnosis

George Alagiah

BBC newsreader George Alagiah has recalled seeing headlines about his cancer diagnosis and thinking it was time to “start ordering the white lilies”.

The TV journalist, 64, was first diagnosed with the illness in 2014 and later said it had spread from his bowel to his liver, lymph nodes and lungs.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live yesterday he said: “I saw some of the headlines actually about it and thought: ‘Oh my God, are they talking about me?’

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“I thought it was time to start ordering the white lilies.”

White lilies are common at funerals and symbolise the soul of the departed.

Alagiah said he judged the seriousness of his condition by his doctors’ reactions.

He said: “I take my cue from my doctors and they don’t look scared to me. I’ve known them now for six years.

“In fact I said to one of them a couple of years ago, that he better do the worrying for me, because I can’t deal with that.

“I’m not going to spend the time I’ve got worrying.

“I want to spend the time I’ve got living and doing the things I want to do and enjoying my family and friends.”

Speaking about the moment in April when his doctor told him his cancer had spread to his lungs, he added: “I look at him when he gives me news, like the news he gave me earlier this year that it had spread.

“I look in his eyes and he didn’t look frightened, so I’m not frightened.”

Alagiah, who tested positive for Covid-19 in March, said he had begun to see his extended family again while maintaining social distancing.

He said: “We’ve started over the last three weekends, actually doing the whole marching them through the house and into the garden.

“What’s really, really, really difficult is my granddaughter, because she’s 18, 19 months and does she get social distancing? No, she doesn’t get social distancing, and it’s so hard.”

Alagiah was diagnosed with bowel cancer in April 2014 and again in December 2017.

Picture: BBC News at Six

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