Julia Bradbury: ‘I had a meltdown after my breast cancer scare’

Former Countryfile presenter opens up to Closer on the emotional turmoil of finding a lump in her breast during lockdown

Julia Bradbury

by Jane Oddy |

She’s known for her exuberant attitude to life and boundless energy, but TV presenter Julia Bradbury admits a recent breast cancer scare knocked her for six.

In March, the former presenter of Countryfile found a lump after checking her breasts, which she does regularly.

Julia –  who was working in Costa Rica at the time – tells Closer, “I felt a lump and it was sore... but when I got home, it was lockdown and I was distracted with the family and life just took over.”

The star, who turns 50 next month, admits it was only after speaking to a friend who shared her concerns that she contacted her GP, leading to a visit to the breast specialist at her local hospital in London.

Julia Bradbury
Julia's a big fan of the great outdoors ©Shutterstock

She says, “It was so scary. As I was going to see the breast specialist, the feelings and thoughts were swirling. I kept thinking, ‘I hope this is all right’. It was my first mammogram. I’ve got tiny boobs and it was more an issue of finding enough to flatten in the machine!”

Julia says she waited before seeking medical help because she felt guilty after watching images every evening of brave NHS staff strained under the pressure of the virus. And she isn’t alone, as Cancer Research UK says urgent referrals dropped by around 75 per cent during the pandemic.

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She had five gruelling bouts of IVF to have her son Zephyr, eight, and twin daughters Zena and Xanthe, five, with her long-term partner Gerard Cunningham after undergoing treatment for endometriosis – a condition that affects fertility.

She says, “I breastfed all my children, which is said to lower the chance of breast cancer – and there’s no history of it in my family, either.”

Thankfully for Julia, she was told her lump was benign and received the all-clear. But the stress of her ordeal, coupled with the anxiety of lockdown, led her to “have a meltdown”.

She says, “It was such a relief. I like to think I’m mentally strong, but I had a complete wobble and couldn’t stop crying – and that’s fine. You have to admit when you feel emotional or stressed and let your emotions out. Keeping them trapped inside is bad for you.”

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Although she’s long-been an advocate of exercise and the great outdoors in her popular walking TV shows, such as The Wonders Of Britain and Britain’s Best Walks, Julia says her scare has made her appreciate her body even more.

She reveals, “I’m not unduly cautious, but I do keep on top of it with ‘MOT’ checks. I certainly don’t feel like l am about to turn 50.”

And despite her experience, Julia says she has come out of it stronger, with a huge appreciation for life – and is making the most of lockdown by spending quality time with her family and continuing her fitness.

Closer magazine issue 907
Closer magazine issue 907 - out now ©Closer

She says, “I’ve loved being at home with the children. Normally, I would have probably been away three times for work by now, so the sense of togetherness has been lovely.

“Gerry and I have been taking it in turns with the cooking. I even made my first cheese soufflé, which was a success. Maybe it was beginner’s luck, but the whole family ate it.

“At first, I was frightened about going into lockdown. I’ve got children, elderly parents, and friends with health problems. But I found having a timetable and ticking off lists has helped. And I’ve been exercising about five times a week; bike riding, walking and yoga, which really helps. We all have worries during these times, but I feel I have really benefited from all this downtime, from a mental health point of view.

“And despite the cancer scare, overall, I’m incredibly lucky. I have my kids, we have a garden, I talk to my parents, and I get cuddles every day. But like everyone, I can’t wait until I can hug all my friends and family again.”

Julia’s Lockdown Sessions with psychotherapist Jonathan Hoban at TheOutdoorGuide.co.uk

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