BBC's George Alagiah reveals hardest part of living with a stoma during treatment for bowel cancer

George Alagiah, BBC news presenter, on set

George Alagiah has revealed the difficulties of living with a stoma while he was undergoing treatment for stage four bowel cancer.

The BBC News presenter was speaking on Conversation With George Alagiah: A Bowel Cancer UK Podcast, which he hosts.

He told his podcast guests Andrea Robson (stage two bowel cancer sufferer) and Lisa Allison (Robson’s stoma nurse), about managing the condition. The broadcaster previously underwent an ileostomy, where the small bowel is diverted through a stoma, an opening in the stomach. A special bag is placed over the stoma to collect waste products.

In the podcast, he said: “I used to find it difficult – I had a stoma but I didn’t look disabled, and I would be turning the key in a disabled loo in a motorway service station or something.

“And if there was a queue and somebody obviously disabled (was there), I used to feel guilty and feel like I needed to apologise and explain.

“The reason you need to go into a disabled loo is that you just need a little bit of space, to get the contents of your blue bag out and the sanitising equipment and so on.”

Alagiah no longer has the stoma after undergoing reversal treatment, but he has spoken for the first time about the impact it had on his life. He revealed his guilt at using a disabled toilet when he was not visibly disabled but was having to use the facilities due to a stoma bag attached to his stomach.

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Talking about living with a stoma for the first time, the BBC newsreader, who has stage four bowel cancer, also said that he had to get his suits for work altered to allow for the bag on his abdomen.

Alagiah underwent 17 rounds of chemotherapy to treat advanced bowel cancer in 2014 before returning to presenting duties in 2015, but in January 2018 he revealed that the cancer had returned.