ABC broadcaster James Valentine ‘hopeful and terrified’ after oesophageal cancer diagnosis | Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcaster and saxophonist James Valentine has revealed live on ABC radio that he has oesophageal cancer and is taking several months off to undergo surgery.

The host of Sydney’s Afternoons program, Valentine told his listeners the cancer was discovered after he “choked and retched” while eating curry at a party in December.

He had a gastroscopy shortly afterwards which revealed he had a 4cm tumour where his oesophagus meets his stomach and will need surgery to remove his entire oesophagus.

After five weeks of chemotherapy and radiation, Valentine returned to the Afternoons slot this year after he had spent two years hosting Breakfast.

Valentine said he has discovered that when he has to tell people he has cancer, including his 96-year-old mother, it was better to begin at the end of the story.

James Valentine currently telling his listeners that he is taking a break from radio to deal with cancer. In brilliant James style he is currently interviewing his surgeon!

— Craig Reucassel (@craigreucassel) March 21, 2024

“I’ve become more adept at it and have found that it’s best to reveal the ending first,” Valentine wrote on the ABC website.

“The end of the story is I’m going to be fine.

“The beginning is I have cancer. If you open with that, no one ever believes you’re going to be fine. Cancer is a trigger word for just about everyone because your own body turning against you is a horrible thing and, for many, the course of the disease is ghastly, and for many it’s fatal.”

During an interview, Doug Fenton-Lee, the consultant upper gastrointestinal surgeon who will operate on Valentine, described what he would do in the operating theatre and what the recovery from the major surgery would be like for him.

“I know you’re probably used to me being humorous about most things and satirical and ironic; this is unfortunately not an ironic thing. I’m not building up to some joke here. This is what I’m dealing with,” Valentine told listeners.

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Valentine worked as a musician during the 1980s, playing the saxophone in bands including Models and Absent Friends, and recorded, toured and performed with Jo Camilleri, Wendy Matthews, Kate Ceberano, Pseudo Echo and Stephen Cummings. He still plays in Sydney with his own jazz quartet.

“I thought about telling the ABC Radio Sydney audience before this time but I decided I had only just come back to Afternoons,” the radio and TV host said.

“It’s generally a jolly show, so let’s have a good time there for a few months rather than shade that whole time with my disease.

“So, I’ll be gone for a while. Probably two or three months. I’m going to make sure I’m fully recovered and my stomach is going to stay attached to my neck before I attempt broadcasting again. Wouldn’t want it to come loose mid-show.

“Cancer is confronting and of course I’m equal parts hopeful and terrified.”

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