Julie Walters reveals she had stage three bowel cancer

Ellie Harrison
Julie Walters at the 2018 Baftas: Jeff Spicer/Getty

Dame Julie Walters has revealed that she was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer 18 months ago.

The Oscar-nominated actor discussed her cancer battle and chemotherapy treatment in a new interview with the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire.

Walters said she had two primary tumours in her large intestine, and was so shocked when she was diagnosed that she thought doctors “must have made a mistake”.

She was filming her new movie The Secret Garden when she was diagnosed. “I was still thinking, ‘That’s ridiculous, he must have made a mistake,’” she said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Walters described the reaction of her husband, Grant Roffey. “I’ll never forget his face,” she said. “Tears came into his eyes.”

The actor said that while she had always been optimistic that she would recover, she worried about not coming round from anaesthetic after surgery. She said that she had “30cm taken out of my colon” in hospital.

Walters had chemotherapy, which she said was “fine” and had not caused hair loss. She added: “I’ve just had a scan, and I know that [I’m] clear.”

Her treatment meant that she was cut from certain scenes in The Secret Garden and she also missed the premiere of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.

Walters said the diagnosis had “completely changed” her perspective towards acting. “The person before the operation is different to this person,” she said.

She revealed her relief at taking a break from work. “I was due to do two big series... and there were two films. And I just didn’t have to do any of it. And that was wonderful,” she said.

Hinting at a possible retirement, she said if she did another film after The Secret Garden “it would have to be something I’m really engaged with”.

“I’m not saying I’ll never act again,” she said. “But I certainly don’t think I can go back to [a film that requires working] six days a week, five in the morning till seven o’clock at night.”

The Secret Garden, which also stars Colin Firth, will arrive in UK cinemas on 10 April 2020.

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