“It completely turned my life upside down.” Mark Radcliffe talks to Northern Soul about his life-changing diagnosis
This time last year, things were looking pretty bleak for Mark Radcliffe. The popular broadcaster, author and musician had been diagnosed with cancer in late 2018 leading to the removal of a cancerous tumour from his tongue. The cancer had also spread to lymph nodes in his neck and, understandably, Radcliffe describes the diagnosis as “tough’”.
“It completely turned my life upside down,” he says over a chai latte in Salford’s MediaCity. “And my family too.”
Doctors didn’t gloss over the gravity of the diagnosis. “I remember when I found the lump on the side of my face. I went to the appointment alone because I didn’t think it was serious. When the doctor asked me if I had anyone with me, I thought ‘oh bloody hell, why?’”.
Surgeons removed the walnut-sized tumour from the back of his tongue and one the size of an apple from his neck which was the secondary in the lymph nodes. He admits he had “never felt as ill in my life”. Thankfully, following successful treatment at The Christie in Manchester he was back on the radio in February 2019.
Recently, Radcliffe, 61, unveiled an engraved park bench in the grounds of The University of Manchester where he studied in the late 1970s. In a twist to the memorial benches seen across the country, Radcliffe’s bench attests to his recovery from cancer and salutes the scientists, doctors and nurses who are making game-changing progress in tackling the disease. The inscription reads: ‘Broadcaster Mark Radcliffe used to love sitting here…and still does thanks to advances in cancer research.’
The location of the bench is not lost on him.
“I loved my time at the university. Unbelievably, the bench has been placed outside the arts block, right under the window of my dad’s old office. He was the communications officer for the university, and I lost him last year so the whole process has been quite emotional.”
The bench was revealed at the launch of the Re-Write Cancer campaign, a £20 million joint fundraising appeal run by Cancer Research UK, The Christie Charitable Fund and Manchester University, which is aiming to meet the cost of a new £150 million cancer research facility next to The Christie.
Radcliffe says: “The goal is to open it in 2022 and it will be massive, twice the size of the Paterson building which was badly damaged by fire in 2017. We’re lucky to have The Christie in Manchester, every year thousands are in the same boat and I was fortunate to receive excellent care.”
According to Cancer Research UK, cancer cases in Greater Manchester are significantly higher than anywhere else in the UK with 18 people dying from the disease in the region every day. That’s 6,500 people a year.
Now in remission, Radcliffe says he feels a sense of being “reborn” and recently went to Rajasthan with his wife Bella. “It’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit,” he explains. “And after months of treatment and feeling bloody terrible, really awful, I thought ‘right, we’re off’.”
By the look of him, it’s been just the tonic. Lightly tanned and trim, he admits to losing three stone (“I’ve put one back on”).
He looks the picture of health. “I feel great. When I was in India, I remember walking around one day, taking in all the vibrant colours and smells of the place and feeling the breeze on my face. I tell you, it was a poignant moment.”
Now back at work presenting the weekend breakfast show on BBC Radio 6 Music with longtime collaborator Stuart Maconie, as well as BBC Radio 2’s weekly folk programme on Wednesday evenings, Radcliffe says he’s glad to be back.
“I missed it and the people I work with. I’ve also got back into performing. I’ve got a new band called UNE and we’ve made a techno album called Lost.”
When he’s not presenting, playing or writing, Radcliffe, always a keen walker, says he spends loads of time with his dog Arlo, a colliepoo.
“He’s great. I live in a house full of women (he’s also a grandad to two) so he’s my best mate.”
All images by Andrew Allcock except for the photo of a bench which is courtesy of Cancer Research UK.
For more information about the Re-Write Cancer fundraising campaign click here.
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