Julie Walters kept her cancer secret as she didn’t want to worry her family – and told how her illness had been a “gift”.
The Educating Rita actress, 70, has had the all-clear after being diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer in 2018.
But she said the disease, which led to two tumours being removed from her colon, had made her reevaluate her life, including cutting back on work and living at a more sedate pace.
She said: “It’s changed me because it’s changed the way I live my life. I’m the same but different. I’m not rushing about all the time, getting up at 5am and coming home at midnight.
“A year-and-a-half has now passed. I’ve gone from thinking of my cancer as a shock and something terrible that happened to me, to thinking in a way it was a gift.”
Julie first visited a doctor with indigestion and “slight discomfort” but later returned with symptoms such as stomach pain, heartburn and vomiting.
While on the set of The Secret Garden, she received a call asking her to see a specialist.
After her cancer diagnosis, she recalls telling her husband Grant Roffey. She said: “I walked into the car park where Grant was waiting and when I said the word ‘cancer’, I saw his eyes fill with tears. We just sat there numb.
“But what I knew, what we knew, was that we would go through it. I think we both knew not to be emotional, just be practical and deal with it.”
She told her daughter Maisie Roffey, 31, she was having her appendix out in hospital while in fact she had “30cm taken out of my colon”.
She did not tell her older brothers, Tommy and Kevin.
Instead, she only confided in Grant, who she met in 1986 before marrying 11 years later.
She said in a Telegraph interview: “I couldn’t bear the thought of everyone worrying – particularly my daughter. I told her I needed to have my appendix removed as there was a problem.
“I couldn’t say the word ‘cancer’ to her. I knew she knew it probably didn’t sound right but she knew I wasn’t going to talk about it and she didn’t push me. I didn’t want to upset people.”
She has changed her diet and added: “I avoid red meat and have lots of greens. And I try not to eat sugar as it’s cancer’s best friend, but that’s hard.”
Julie will be back on our screens soon in BBC drama The Secret Garden. She will play housekeeper Medlock. Colin Firth will also star in the series.