The television presenter Julia Bradbury has announced she has breast cancer, and urged other women to check their breasts and seek help if they notice any changes.
The 51-year-old broadcaster will undergo a mastectomy in October to remove her left breast, along with its 6cm tumour. Surgeons will also take tissue from her lymph nodes to establish whether or not the disease has spread.
Bradbury, who made her name presenting the BBC’s Countryfile, said she was going public in order to encourage others to get tested.
“My plan is to come through it and out the other side and I hope to be able to do that bravely enough so that women who are scared to get tested, to get a diagnosis, go ahead. I want to be able to give them a wave and say: look, it’s horrible, but you can do it too,” she told the Mail on Sunday.
She urged women not to ignore warning signs: “We must, must, must check ourselves and seek help. Being scared of a diagnosis could be the thing which kills you. So learn what to look for and check, check, check. Doctors are experts but only you can press a lump, know how it feels and think you should do something about it.”
Bradbury was diagnosed in July, shortly before going on holiday with her partner, Gerard, and their three children, son Zeph, 10, and twin daughters Zena and Xanthe, six.
Doctors have told her the cancer cells are currently confined to her milk ducts and have not yet spread to the breast tissue. This means that, despite the significant size of the tumour, she may not need chemotherapy.
Additionally, she may be able to keep her nipple and she is unlikely to need a skin graft to complete her reconstructive surgery. “It is quite good on the scale on cancers,” she told the Mail on Sunday. “But as with all tumours, until you are in there you never know.”
She said she was going to see a mastectomy counsellor to help her come to terms psychologically with the procedure.
“Ultimately, if a mastectomy helps you repair then it is a good thing. But it does feel like losing a part of you, part of your sexual identity and part of your experience of motherhood. I breastfed my babies from that boob and when I look down I picture my twins and Zeph before them on it. That hurts,” she told the newspaper.
She has been cheering herself up by joking with friends about how her new breast could look, but insisted: “I won’t be taking the opportunity to upgrade, to do a Dolly Parton.”
Bradbury talked of how she attended the National Television Awards earlier this month wearing a silver off-the-shoulder jumpsuit cut across her chest. It was both an act of defiance and farewell, she said – “a kind of goodbye to the body I’ve been living in all these years”.
It was difficult to put on a brave face, having not yet gone public with the news. “I was in a box with friends like Ben Shephard and Cherry Healey. Kate Garraway won the best documentary award for her programme about her husband Derek Draper’s battle with long Covid. It prompted a deep conversation about life-changing moments and how everybody was struggling with something," sy het gese.
“It was difficult to participate. I hadn’t told them yet so I had to step away. I slipped to the bar to get another glass of water with lime cut in to look like it was a vodka tonic. Normally I would be swinging from the rafters at the NTAs, I’d be the last woman standing, but I was home by 10pm, not even drinking a hot chocolate.”
Bradbury has become one of the UK’s best-known champions of the countryside, fronting hit shows including Britain’s Best Walks and the Wonders of Britain. She made her TV debut in the 1990s reporting from Hollywood for GMTV and rose to national prominence as a presenter of Countryfile between 2004 en 2014 alongside Matt Baker.