Bill Turnbull on prostate cancer diagnosis: The first days are the darkest

Bill Turnbull has said his energy levels are up after finishing nine rounds of chemotherapy – but he has “an awfully long way to go”.

The 62-year-old former BBC Breakfast host was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the end of last year, after long-term aches and pains which he had put down to “old age” were no longer being alleviated with pills.

Both he and Stephen Fry have been praised for raising awareness through their experiences with the disease.

Turnbull told BBC Breakfast that the first few days following his diagnosis were the “darkest”.

“I did nine rounds of chemotherapy, which is a bit of a grind to be honest. That finished a few weeks ago,” the presenter said.

“The effects of the chemo have been wearing off, which means my energy levels are back up and I feel a lot better in that respect.

“I’ve still got the disease and we’ve got an awfully long way to go, but for the moment I’m feeling OK.”

He described being diagnosed, as he was recording The Great Celebrity Bake Off For Stand Up To Cancer on Channel 4, as a “bombshell” moment.

Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry (Yui Mok/PA)

“It’s one of the hardest things that you’ll face in your life. It will happen to hundreds of people today, when they’re told, not just that they’ve got prostate cancer but other types of cancer.

“You have to push through it really. It’s a really numbing, shocking moment.

“The consolation is the first days are the darkest days. If you get through those and have people around you, after that you can start putting things into context.

“It’s not great. It’s a constant thing on your mind, but if you get through that first week or so it will get a little better.”

Turnbull said it had been “gratifying” to raise awareness.

“As soon as I went public there was an enormous response on Twitter … to wish me well, but also men saying they had been made by their wives and family to get a test because they had been putting it off”, he said.

“It wasn’t my intention originally. I just wanted to make people aware it can happen to you at a certain age and if you feel the warnings signs – problems with your waterworks, unexplained aches and pains that won’t go away – for heaven’s sake go and get yourself tested.

“If you catch it early, that’s much better than finding out too late.”

Absolutely. https://t.co/06xabW8CkE

— Bill Turnbull (@billtu) October 9, 2018

The Classic FM host said he had received “wonderful treatment” at the Royal Marsden Hospital and that he has “been told over and over again that there are new treatments coming out all the time…”

Turnbull, who had been given the all-clear when he had been tested at the ages of 40 and 50 and had not seen a GP for four years, said: “A diagnosis of cancer today is not a death sentence by any means.

“Many, many people survive. Other people are now surviving for much longer than they would have a decade or two ago. So getting a diagnosis is not the end of the world.”

And he joked of the “Turnbull and Fry effect”: “A song and dance routine just occasionally might be a good idea.”

Fry revealed his diagnosis in February.