George Alagiah: I had to get my cancer diagnosis straight in my head

·3 min read
George Alagiah has spoken about his cancer diagnosis as part of a new campaign for charity Macmillan Cancer Support - Macmillan Cancer Support/Rankin
George Alagiah has spoken about his cancer diagnosis as part of a new campaign for charity Macmillan Cancer Support - Macmillan Cancer Support/Rankin

George Alagiah has described the challenge of getting his cancer diagnosis 'straight in his head' when he was told he was dying.

The journalist and Sheridan Smith are among those who have shared their experiences with cancer in an intimate shoot with the photographer Rankin for charity Macmillan Cancer Support.

Mr Alagiah, 66, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2014 and has been photographed alongside personal trainer and mother of three Mary Huckle, who was also diagnosed with stage four breast cancer in the same year as Mr Alagiah.

Speaking about his experience of living with cancer, which subsequently spread to his lymph nodes and lungs, Mr Alagiah said: "People always ask me how I cope and it's the hardest question.

"The challenge at first was getting my cancer diagnosis straight in my head; despite having so much going for me, a successful career and a loving family, here I was just being told I was dying.

"I wish I had known sooner just how much support Macmillan could have offered me throughout this whole experience, but I thought I had to be at the end of my life to ask for it."

George Alagiah with personal trainer Mary Huckle - Macmillan Cancer Support/Rankin
George Alagiah with personal trainer Mary Huckle - Macmillan Cancer Support/Rankin

Speaking about her own diagnosis, Ms Huckle described the difficulty of breaking the news to her loved ones: "The ripple effects are always far reaching and just as traumatic for them. Many lonely, sleepless nights ensued."

Adding: "I just had to accept the situation and crack on with the process."

The photography series captured by Rankin, who has previously photographed The Queen, Kate Moss and David Bowie, marks the return of the Macmillan Coffee Morning - the charity's nationwide fundraising event to support people living with cancer.

Stage and screen actress Smith has supported Macmillan for a number of years after losing loved ones to cancer and was photographed by Rankin alongside Manchester-based nurse Suad Ibrahim whose father died from cancer.

The 41-year-old who rose to fame starring in popular sitcoms The Royle Family, Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps and Gavin and Stacey, said: "Connecting with others who have been touched by cancer can really help you to feel less alone.

"Macmillan's Coffee Morning is the perfect space to do that."

TV and theatre actress Sheridan Smith - Macmillan Cancer Support/Rankin
TV and theatre actress Sheridan Smith - Macmillan Cancer Support/Rankin

This is Going to Hurt and Fleabag actor Kadiff Kirwan, who lost his mother to cancer, also sat for Rankin alongside former primary school teacher Chloe Dixon.

Award-winning podcast host and cancer campaigner Lauren Mahon was photographed with Shell Rowe, a 23-year-old filmmaker and TikTok star who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2019.

Ms Mahon, 37, who hosted You, Me and the Big C with Dame Deborah James and Rachael Bland who both later died from cancer, spoke more specifically about the financial pressures a cancer diagnosis can bring.

She said: "When I got diagnosed, one thing that completely floored me was money. For some reason I thought - which I think is quite normal - that I would be looked after, that there'd be Government funding, or support I could apply for.

"I didn't realise it would be statutory sick pay. I'd moved out my parents' house before I received my diagnosis and I couldn't even afford to pay my rent in London - my friends had to fundraise just to keep me in my home.