‘Sex drives people mad’: Esther Rantzen shares her most important life lessons

Rantzen, 82, revealed her lung cancer had progressed to stage four this May

Maanya Sachdeva
Saturday 24 June 2023 17:07 BST
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Dame Esther Rantzen has compiled the life lessons she’s learnt since being diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer in a new book.

Rantzen, 82, first announced her diagnosis in January, before revealing it had progressed to stage four in May this year.

The veteran TV presenter told the Daily Mirror she’s on “new medications” but that “nobody knows if it’s working or not”. However, reflecting on her life, she added that the diagnosis “made me realise how very lucky I am”.

In an excerpt from her new book Older & Bolder: My A - Z of Surviving Almost Anything, published by The Times, Rantzen shares the lessons she’s learned – about health, family, growing older, sex, nudity, grief, and naps – since being diagnosed with cancer.

“Sex drives people mad. Probably that’s what it’s for, because if you think about it, if you were sane, would you do such an inelegant, unhygienic thing?” the former host of That’s Life! writes. “Here is the good news. When you’re too old for sex, sanity returns. Here is the bad news. Then, nobody listens to you.”

Rantzen explains she’s in “favour of nudity” because if we all did it more often “everyone would accept body hair and lumps”.

She notes there are “several antidotes to grumpiness” including sunshine and chocolate, but “money, sadly, doesn’t work”.

Other important lessons she’s learned over the years include prioritising spending time with your loved ones, health is the only thing that truly matters, and that naps are one of the “happy discoveries of growing older”.

She also offers advice on motherhood, grandchildren, and the temporariness of beauty.

In the excerpt, Rantzen recalls the moment she first noticed a lump in my armpit, a few days after Christmas last year.

“An evangelical non-smoker”, Rantzen was shocked to discover she had lung cancer and later learned it was an extremely rare kind that most commonly attacks young Asian women.

When she slowly began telling her friends and family, asking them to share their most fun memories together, Rantzen writes she was “overwhelmed” by their responses.

“Another lesson cancer has taught me: the one thing worth hoarding is friendship. Never let it go. Stay in touch,” she adds.

Rantzen is best known for being the presenter of the BBC’s That’s Life, a topical entertainment show, from 1973 to 1994.

She also founded the charities Childline and Silver Line in 1986 and 2012 respectively. In 2015, Rantzen was made a DBE for services to children and older people through her charitable organisations.

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