Ex-Radio 1 DJ and Leeds University student Adele Roberts on why cancer was 'probably the best thing that’s happened to me'

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 says. “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.”

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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.

Adele Roberts. Picture: Alamy/PA.Adele Roberts. Picture: Alamy/PA.
Adele Roberts. Picture: Alamy/PA.

“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.”

Roberts – who studied pharmacology at the University of Leeds, where she joined Leeds Student Radio presenting a weekly mix show, and 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.”

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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.

Adele Roberts duing a DJ set. Picture: Tim Goode/PA.Adele Roberts duing a DJ set. Picture: Tim Goode/PA.
Adele Roberts duing a DJ set. Picture: Tim Goode/PA.

Before her illness, she ran the London Marathon twice, for the mental health charity Heads Together, 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.”

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