1. ITV Report

Clive James 'near the end' in cancer battle

Clive James pictured in London in 1995. Photo: Reuters

Australian broadcaster Clive James has admitted that he is losing his long-fought battle with leukaemia.

The 72-year-old told a BBC Radio 4 programme that he has "almost died four times" since being diagnosed with the disease two-and-a-half years ago.

The TV veteran, best known for shows such as Clive James on Television, reveals in the interview how he initially thought he could fight the disease:

I swore to myself if I can just get through this winter, I’d feel better.

And I got through the winter and here it is a lovely sunny day and guess what, I don’t feel better.

Audio from Meeting Myself Coming Back, in which Clive James looks back across his entire career, will be broadcast on Saturday 23 June at 20:00 BST on BBC Radio 4.

He continues:

I’ve been really ill for two-and-a-half years. I was diagnosed with leukaemia then I had COPD - which is a fancy name for emphysema - and my immune system packed up. And that’s just the start.

James was treated at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, a form of the disease which progresses slowly, as well as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which makes it increasingly harder to breathe.

The Aussie presenter concedes that he will probably not see his native Sydney again.

I’ve been so sick I’m not allowed to fly.

You couldn’t get enough oxygen aboard a plane to get me to Sydney. I used to be in Australia for five or six times a year but now I can’t go.

'Looking forward to years of working'

But James's spokeswoman released a statement later saying that he was in reasonable shape and looking forward to years of working.

The statement said:

On air today the interview which Clive James gave to the BBC sounded much less doom-laden than it does when transcribed.Clive is in fact in reasonable shape and is looking forward to years of working, writing his books and his column for the Telegraph.

James moved to England in 1962 and studied English at Pembroke College at Cambridge, where he became ­president of the Footlights drama club.

In the Radio 4 interview, due to be aired on Saturday at 8pm, Clive talks emotionally about the dad he never knew, who survived life as a Japanese prisoner during the Second World War, only to die on his way back home to Australia.

I never saw him, I think I was in his arms as a baby for about a day before he sailed off.

I suppose that was the defining effect on my life. I talk about it even now with difficulty but, yes, he was meant to come home and he didn’t, and I was on my own with my mother.

Writing last year, Clive praised the NHS for his treatment. He said ­Addenbrooke’s Hospital can “make me burst into tears of ­gratitude."

It isn’t quite as beautiful, perhaps, as the Taj Mahal. But it can save a life. It has been quietly busy saving mine.