Actress Julie Walters opens up about her stage 3 bowel cancer diagnosis

Mamma Mia actress Dame Julie Walters has opened up about the stage three bowel cancer diagnosis she received 18 months ago


Legendary actress Julie Walters has revealed she was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer.

Speaking on BBC's Victoria Derbyshire show, Walters revealed the doctors found two primary tumours in her large intestine 18 months ago; saying when she found out she thought the doctors "must have made a mistake".

She underwent chemotherapy and was subsequently given the all-clear. The actress, who has starred in films such as Mamma Mia and Educating Rita, also revealed her next film may be her last – but this decision is not yet definite.

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Prior to the diagnosis she had been suffering from indigestion and felt a "slight discomfort" and so visited her doctor. She later returned with symptoms such as stomach pain, heartburn and vomiting, thus leading to a referral to a gastric surgeon and CT scan.

Walters was on the set of her new film The Secret Garden when she received a call from the consultant asking her to come in. It was then he told her the tests had shown an abnormality and he feared it could be cancer.

Looking back on the moment, she said, "So I came out and [my husband] Grant was waiting in the car because he'd taken me. And I said, 'They're worried it's cancer'. I'll never forget his face. And tears came into his eyes and I thought, "Oh Grant." So I then worried about him."

'We can fix this'

Her reaction to the news was one of shock but then pragmatic-thinking came into play. She said, "Shock. First of all, shock. And I thought: 'Right'.

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"And then you hold onto the positive, which was he [the doctor] said, 'We can fix this'.

Walters then underwent an operation where 30 cm (approximately 12 inches) of her colon was removed. Prior to the operation, she feared she "may not come round from the anaesthetic." Initially reluctant, she decided on chemotherapy, which she said was "fine" and didn't cause hair loss.

What's more, a recent scan has come back clear and Walters says she is doing "really well". However, the cancer diagnosis has changed her perspective and attitude towards acting. "The person before the operation is different to this person... I was due to do two big series... and there were two films. And I just didn't have to do any of it. And that was wonderful," she said.

"I'm not saying I'll never act again. But I certainly don't think I can go back to [a film that requires working] six days a week, five in the morning till seven o'clock at night."

Finally, Walters urged the public to go to the doctor if they think they have symptoms of bowel cancer and to not be afraid of the examination. "Your bowel is part of your digestive system, it's just what digests your food. Think of that."

"Doctors are used to bottoms. They've got one themselves. Hopefully."

Image: Reuters 

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