Harry Potter star reveals her secret bowel cancer diagnosis

British actress Julie Walters has revealed she was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2018.

The much-loved actress who starred in Mamma Mia and seven of the eight Harry Potter films as Molly Weasley, told the BBC she thought doctors had "made a mistake" when they told her she had Stage 3 cancer.

The shocking news came weeks before the premiere of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again and Julie said she could not believe what she was being told.

The Paddington actress had first gone to see her GP with indigestion and "slight discomfort", but later returned with stomach pains, heartburn and vomiting.

She was then referred to a gastric surgeon, where she had a CT scan. When she was called in by doctors, Julie said she could not believe what she was being told.

"I was still thinking, 'That's ridiculous, he must have made a mistake,'" Julie told the BBC. "I couldn't believe it."

Julie, 69, only told her family and close friends, and has never spoken about her illness until now.

"I'll never forget his face," Walters said, remembering the moment she told her husband, Grant Roffey. "Tears came into his eyes and I thought, 'Oh, Grant!' So then I'm worried about him more than [the diagnosis]."

Julie with her husband, Grant

Julie with her husband, Grant

 

The Billy Elliot star quickly started treatment. She had 30cm of her colon removed and underwent chemotherapy, but did not lose her hair. She says she is now fully recovered but she has stepped back from working as hard as she used to.

Although she will star in The Secret Garden, later in 2020, Dame Julie said she is actively considering retiring.  

"But, you know, something might come up," Walters told the BBC. "It would have to be something I really engaged with and that didn't have a killing schedule."

She is now urging others to be tested for bowel cancer, despite many fearing it's an embarrassing test to have. 

"Your bowel is part of your digestive system. It's just what digests your food and I think you just have to remember that," said the actress. "And it's just, you've got to go and get things checked. Doctors are used to bottoms: They've got one themselves, hopefully."

Bowel cancer (also known as colorectal cancer) is the third most common type of newly diagnosed cancer in Australia. It claims the lives of 5,375 Australians every year, including 292 people under the age of 50.

What are bowel cancer symptoms?

  • A persistent change in your bowel habits - going more often, with looser stools and sometimes tummy pains.
  • Blood in the stools without other symptoms, such as piles
  • Abdominal pain, or bloating, sometimes resulting in weight loss
  •  These general symptoms can be attributed to other illnesses so it's important see your GP iif you are concerned.
  • For more information on testing and symptoms, click here

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