‘I will be outside every day, come rain or shine,’ vows TV presenter Julia Bradbury

TV star Julia Bradbury was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago. (Image: )

TV star Julia Bradbury says since she was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago she spends time outdoors every day.

The nature enthusiast, 53, also says that savouring every moment of family life has also helped her get through tough times.

She says: “My diagnosis changed me, but it hasn’t defined me. I’d rather work on focusing on the things I do have, not the things I don’t have, and enjoy every day.”

In 2022 Julia shared the highs and lows of her cancer treatment in a frank documentary that followed her journey.

She says: “I tried to show you don’t have to be brave and not every day is a great day.

“When I was on the receiving end of those words – ‘You’ve got cancer’ – I felt frightened. The first thing I thought was, ‘I don’t want to die, I want to see my children grow up’. Like many people, I instantly thought of the worst outcome.

“I had discovered a lump in early 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, but it was dismissed as benign microcysts. More than a year later the lump was still there and by now painful to touch.

“In September 2021, after further screenings, I was given the diagnosis of breast cancer. A month later I was in the operating theatre having a left breast mastectomy with reconstruction. There is now no sign of the disease and I’m feeling good.”

Julia says she has reset her lifestyle: “I was living life at a breakneck speed. I wan-ted it all and pushed myself emotionally and physically to achieve impossible goals.

“My illness really brought me into the present and has made me understand and appreciate that every single day is important and full of gifts and simple pleasures.

“I live for every day and to make every little task an enriching one – a walk to the shops, a cup of coffee.

“The first day I got out of hospital it was an October day with sunshine and blue skies. I will never forget it. As I waited for the kids to come back from school and see them for the first time since before surgery, I sat at my favourite table in the garden and I said to myself, ‘I will be outside every day of my life from this day onwards, come rain or shine’.”

Advocating the great outdoors for improving wellbeing in her popular walking TV shows, the former Countryfile presenter has frequently found comfort in nature herself during tough times in her life, including her struggles to fall pregnant while battling with endometriosis in her thirties.

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Julia's selfie after her mastectomy.

Julia’s selfie after her mastectomy (L). (Image: )

Recalling her decision to take a pregnancy test while filming in Iceland many years ago, she said the crushing disappointment to learn she was not expecting was helped by “three days of hard hiking”. She continues: “Walking is one of the simplest and best forms of physical exercise there is, but it is so much more than that.

“Ten minutes of brisk walking a day is associated with longer life expectancy.”

Julia’s research into how to maximise her health was distilled into last year’s bestselling part self-help manual, part memoir Walk Yourself Happy, which featured input from scientists.

During last year’s book-signing tour, people waited for two hours to speak to her.

“The queues were pleasantly long and became even longer. Everyone had a question – about the book, about food, sleep or breast cancer or life-changing moments.”

It inspired her to create Walk Yourself Happy Retreats, a series of wellbeing events across the UK with experts from her book leading sessions including breath work, aroma-sound yoga, forest bathing, nutrition and nature walks with Julia.

She hosts the first Walk Yourself Happy Retreat at glamping resort Love2Stay in Shropshire on May 21 and 22.

Initially there will be four, two-day experiences across the UK this year, before a larger event next year.

Julia says: “Love2Stay has a special place in our hearts as it’s where we went as a family following my cancer recovery.”

“We definitely want to turn Walk Yourself Happy into a movement, and create walks and community events across the country.”

While always health conscious, Julia has overhauled her diet and lifestyle further since her illness.

She says: “I start the day with morning light. It is crucial because it readies our bodies for the 24 hours to come. I stick my head out of the bathroom window for 10 minutes when I wake up.

“And it helps to have what I love to call ‘nature snacks’. That means building nature into your everyday routine, preferably outside, but talking to your indoor plant can sometimes do!”

She recalls: “My dad Michael introduced me to nature and hiking adventures in the Peak District when I was six and my mum Chrissi showed me the joy of gardening.

“We’d potter around planting, cut the grass together with a scythe, submerged in nature in a peaceful way.”

And these days Julia is teetotal.

She shrugs: “Honestly, it’s not a hardship for me. My chance for cancer recurrence goes up 28 per cent if I drink regularly. I need to make sure my immune system is running on all cylinders.”

She believes being productive is the key to happiness: “My career has grown gradually over the decades with shows like Wainwright’s Walks and Countryfile, and I’m still on telly after 25 years.

“I feel very grateful to be in the position that I am. I don’t say ‘Yes’ to every project.

TV star Julia Bradbury

TV star Julia Bradbury (Image: )

“But I did agree to appear in ITV’s The Real Full Monty last year to get people talking about cancer and health.”

Despite her enduring success, Julia says her greatest achievement is motherhood.

Three years after the failed pregnancy test in Iceland, at the age of 41, she finally conceived her son Zephyr, now 12, naturally. One miscarriage and four years of IVF treatment after that, her twin daughters arrived, Xanthe and Zena, who were nine earlier this month.

She says: “They’ve been amazing in the last three years. I’ve tried to be really open with them. I told the kids everything.

“I didn’t let them see me in hospital. My sister Gina and my partner Gerry were there, and family, but I wanted the children to see me at home, almost back to the Mummy that they knew.”

Julia adds: “Children are a gift. I love being a mum and they are my priority. My happiest times are with my family watching old films together, drawing and just being together. I always tell my chicks: Be good, be kind, be strong. It’s a good mantra for life. I hope I am a fun mum – there is lots of laughter, love and dancing in our house.”

Her long-term partner, property developer Gerard Cunningham, 64, is from a family of eight children.

“He’s a complete softie, of course he is. All of them have got him wrapped around their little fingers. In a lovely way.

“He’s an amazing dad. Whatever they might think of us, they know they are absolutely loved and wanted and secure.”

Currently filming a new TV series, which is yet to be announced, she adds: “I start book number two later in the year and we’re already talking about new books and what’s coming up in the future. It’s a really exciting time.”

● Walk Yourself Happy by Julia Bradbury (Little Brown, £20) available from www.expressbookshop.com or 0203 176 3832. Free UK P&P on online orders over £25.


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