Adele Roberts: Cancer probably the best thing that’s happened to me
3 weeks ago
Adele Roberts, the super-positive Radio 1 DJ from Southport tells Lisa Salmon that although her bowel cancer has been an ordeal, it’s stopped her ‘sleepwalking through life’.
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” her cancer is probably the best thing that’s ever happened to her.
Just a year after the chirpy Radio 1 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 like it’s stopped me sleepwalking through life, it’s 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 presenter’s admirably positive outlook may be coloured by the fact that she got the all-clear from the disease in June. But nevertheless, it’s obvious that right from her diagnosis in October last year, Roberts has done her best to remain 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, and mine just seems to be a very naughty one,” she laughs. “She’s my naughty little friend. I called her Audrey, because she reminds me of the plant on Little Shop Of Horrors – it starts off really cute, and then it gets big and really naughty.”
Adele Roberts, who rose to fame when she appeared 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, and that’s how I’ve always seen it – like it enhances my life, it doesn’t take anything away from it.”
Other things that enhance Roberts’ life are music, which is – of course – the foundation of her career as a DJ, and exercise – the combination of which has helped her through her cancer ordeal, and the mental wobbles it’s caused.
Before her illness, she ran the London Marathon twice, for the 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, because 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 living my life day-to-day, rather than doing extra,” she says. “So it’s walking rather than running at the moment.”
But her voice cracks with emotion as she says: “I would love to be fit enough again one day to run a marathon. If I could get another marathon medal, even if I have to walk it, that would be amazing. Hopefully one day…”
She always listened to music when she ran, of course, and chuckles as she says: “I almost had to be careful with the music I put on my playlist, because I’d get too excited and run too fast.”
Adele Roberts’ love of music and how it can be a wellbeing booster is what convinced her to get involved with the new BupaHealthTracks campaign (bupa.co.uk), which has created a playlist of motivational songs that people most associate with their daily health and wellness wins.
The playlist, which features more than 23 hours of music and includes classics such as The Beatles Here Comes The Sun, and Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen, 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 got Aretha and Whitney, and loads of house music, because I love my dance music, and definitely Chaka Khan’s I’m Every Woman.
“Music and movement really helped me to 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.
Admitting she didn’t act straight away when she started getting symptoms, she says: “I think I started to experience quite a lot of health troubles when I was in the jungle on I’m A Celebrity… to be honest, but I didn’t realise what was up with me. I lost weight very quickly, I found it hard to eat my food, and I was cold all the time.
“I came out of the jungle and it was Covid, so I didn’t get help straight away, because I thought there were people who needed more help than me. But along with the weight loss, I then started to notice mucous when I went to the toilet, and blood.”
It wasn’t until she was seeing blood regularly when she went to the toilet that she finally sought medical help and the cancer was diagnosed.
“Luckily, it was stage 2, but it was very nearly stage 3,” she says. “It was right up against the wall of my colon, and if I’d left it any longer, I might not be having this conversation right now.
“I’m just happy to be alive. Every day I wake up, I’m like, ‘Thank God!’”
Adele Roberts is supporting the #BupaHealthTracks campaign to highlight the important role music plays in keeping us moving and motivated.