NICK Robinson has admitted that he feared his broadcasting career was over when he lost his voice after cancer surgery.
The BBC political editor was diagnosed with cancer in February, and during surgery to remove a lung tumour, the nerve to one of his vocal chords was severed. When he woke up, he was unable to speak.
‘I never cried about the cancer but I cried when I lost my voice’
The surgeon who removed the tumour was “euphoric” because he had got it all out, but Robinson’s voice had gone. Further surgery failed to restore it.
Robinson has returned to work on a part-time basis, and a scan last week was clear, but his voice has not fully recovered.
Yesterday, he revealed that he had been overwhelmed by despair at times since his diagnosis – with the loss of his voice hitting him the hardest.
He said: “I never cried about the cancer but I cried when I lost my voice. That was particularly cruel.
“It’s so much part of my identity. I woke up from the operation and found I was unable to speak. My first thought was that I would never broadcast again. I thought, ‘That’s it, my TV career is over’.”
Robinson said that when cancer was diagnosed he thought it would be a minor distraction, involving a quick operation and three weeks off work, but then found it was more serious. The condition became a theme of the Election Notebook he was writing.
“It helped me channel feelings I didn’t want to burden my family with,” he said. “I told the diary about my psychological state. My family were carrying all this worry anyway.
“A friend who had cancer told me that it would be harder for my partner than me. I didn’t believe them, but over time I realised why that might be true.
“Being ill is quite a lonely thing. You are alone with fear and pain and the more we all talk about it, the easier it becomes.”
It was the failure to throw off the “annual post-political conference season cold” last October that made him realise that something might be wrong.
“I was constantly cancelling things because I felt too knackered. As a sad workaholic, that was odd.”
Robinson, who was at the centre of a row with Yes supporters at the time of the independence referendum over perceived BBC bias towards the No campaign, says he hopes to be back working full-time by the autumn. A post-chemotherapy infection put him into hospital before the general election last month , but he was back broadcasting only hours after he was discharged from hospital at 2pm on polling day.
“I look a bit better than I am, and I sound a lot worse than I am,” he said yesterday.
He has received many messages of support, including a “lovely letter from Gordon Brown, which I didn’t expect because we had a slightly fractious relationship when he was at No 10. I had a message from David Cameron. Ed Miliband phoned. There was an odd moment when the cybernats said it was karma, but generally people have been incredibly kind.”