BBC star on shock cancer diagnosis - 'I thought I was in the best shape of my life'

‘Cancer has made me a better person,’ says DJ, Dancing On Ice star and marathon runner, Adele Roberts, who calls her stoma “Audrey”, branding her a “cheeky monkey” when she misbehaves.

“Audrey is my little friend,” she says playfully of the stoma. “She always seems to play up and humbles me in public. But she’s been my little buddy all the way through it.”

It’s a light-hearted take on a serious issue, as Audrey has been around for more than two years since Adele, 45, was diagnosed with stage 2 bowel cancer and had a tumour removed.

Since then, Adele has become a campaigner for bowel cancer awareness, and last year became the fastest runner with a stoma bag in the London Marathon, completing it in three hours 30 minutes and 22 seconds – a personal best.

Adele Roberts running the London Marathon
Adele Roberts was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2021 -Credit:Getty Images

Today, the shaven-headed former Radio 1 DJ says she is still recovering from the rounds of chemotherapy that left her with agonising pain in her hands and feet. Her skin peeled off, she lost her fingerprints and everything she ate tasted metallic.

She has remained positive, but admits there were moments of despair.

“There were some nights when I’d just lie there and cry because it hurt so much. It robbed me of so much,” she says.

She focused on her mind and soul, getting through each day with her girlfriend, actor Kate Holderness, by focusing on the positive.

Last year, Adele became the fastest runner with a stoma bag in the London Marathon
Last year, Adele became the fastest runner with a stoma bag in the London Marathon -Credit:Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock

“Even though it was hurting, I was always moving forward,” she says. “You have to take it day by day, break it down, concentrate on what’s in front of you. I think having cancer made me very present.”

Now she has written Personal Best, a memoir about her experience and how she has changed since her diagnosis in October 2021, being declared cancer-free in August 2022, and running her record-breaking London Marathon last year, less than a year after finishing chemo.

“It feels amazing,” she beams. “I thought, I’m going to try to set a record if I can, because at least then it’ll show other people with stomas what’s possible. I had to get enough food and drink into me but not have to empty my bag in the toilet all the time. It was a hard balance.”

She's keeping her shaved hair do for now
She's keeping her shaved hair do for now -Credit:David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock

Isotonic running gels helped – along with crowds yelling for Audrey, emblazoned on her running vest.

Adele is considering entering the six World Marathon Majors, while she has her stoma.

“I wouldn’t wish cancer on anybody but I definitely think it’s made me a better person,” she says. “When I first got diagnosed, the first thing I did was read other people’s experiences, because I was really scared and didn’t know what to expect. I thought, if I survive, I’ll make sure I’ll do the same for other people.”

She returns to hospital every three months for cancer checks. It’s a nervous time, she admits, and brings back memories of the original diagnosis.

“Once I’ve cleared the first two years, it will be five years that will be the next milestone,” she says. Adele’s keeping her shaven head for now, but might let her hair grow back should she hit that momentous five-year marker.

Personal Best by Adele Roberts (Hodder Catalyst, £22) is out now