Julia Bradbury: Cancer made me ‘re-examine my entire lifestyle’

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Julia Bradbury has said being diagnosed with breast cancer made her re-evaluate her entire lifestyle after realising she “didn’t have very good habits”.

The TV presenter, now 53, underwent a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgeries after being diagnosed in 2021.

In a new interview, Bradbury explained how she began to critically examine her daily habits and practices, “from the way I sleep to the way that I spend my downtime, the food I eat, the way I exercise, and how much time I spend outside” after undergoing the mastectomy.

She continued: “It’s one of the most shocking things you can ever hear in your lifetime, when you hear the words, ‘You’ve got cancer’, it just blows your world apart. But I’m happy to say that two-and-a-half years on the other side of my diagnosis, I am doing very well.”

Despite already being known for her love of being active in the outdoors – appearing on the likes of BBC One’s Countryfile, and with a string of TV shows and books on walking under her belt – Bradbury, who has three young children with husband Gerard Cunningham, credited her recovery to taking a “brand-new approach” to her health.

TV presenter and keen walker Julia Bradbury at the start of the Coast to Coast walk in St Bees, Cumbria ((Julia Bradbury/PA))
TV presenter and keen walker Julia Bradbury at the start of the Coast to Coast walk in St Bees, Cumbria ((Julia Bradbury/PA))

This includes daily non-negotiables such as “getting my morning light”and “prioritising sleep” because it’s “fundamental to our health”,” she added.

Bradbury, who explores the science of wellbeing in her new book Walk Yourself Happy: Your Path To Health And Healing In Nature, said the writing process was “so satisfying” because it allowed her to “find the science to back up everything that I instinctively have known for years and years”.

She added that spending time in the outdoors, including going for long walks in nature as well as gardening, have “genuinely helped me through the last two-and-a-half years”.

She added: “ I have a tree outside my bathroom window, a London Plane tree, and it’s my friend – in my book I call trees ‘friends with benefits’ – and I spend a lot of time talking to that tree. It’s been a very, very good listener! I say walking in the outdoors is my therapist, my friend and my gym.”

Bradbury is among a group of celebrities, and outdoor enthusiasts, such as Helen Skelton and fellow Countryfile presenter Sean Fletcher, who are promoting the mental health benefits of spending more time in nature as part of a campaign called “Hats On For Mind”.

Together, they’ve launched an exclusive limited-edition range of woolly hats and flasks available in selected retailers, with 100% of profits going to the mental health charity, Mind.

“There is something about movement, particularly the rhythm of walking, it does help you think and, it sounds like a bit of a cliche, but it does clear the head and really helps compute thoughts and feelings and emotions,” Bradbury said.

Sean Fletcher has teamed up with North Ridge ((North Ridge/PA))
Sean Fletcher has teamed up with North Ridge ((North Ridge/PA))

She is a big advocate for what she calls “nature snacks” too – another hallmark of Bradbury’s daily routine reboot: “Every 30 minutes, or whenever you can, just get up and go outside, even if it’s for a couple of minutes. Take it all in, then come back in.”

Elsewhere, she shared that the biggest lesson she’s learned over the last two years is that of gratitude, adding: “I now express gratitude on a daily basis and have a gratitude journal – and there is science behind this as well, you can change the way your brain actually thinks.

“So, my new phrase is – it’s not about what you don’t have, it’s being grateful for what you do have. Because none of us has a perfect life, none of us has everything we’d like, we can all find things not to be happy with. But what about the things you do have in your life? And generally, I’d say those are the smaller things. The small things are the big things,” Bradbury added.

Additional reporting on wires.