He’s been on Better Homes and Gardens since its debut in 1995, making himself a huge name in the gardening world, both on TV and radio.
But Graham Ross’ fame hasn’t come without its challenges. The 70-year-old has revealed that he continued working right through five skin cancer scares, a battle with prostate cancer, and a bowel cancer scare. Now he has opened up to Starts at 60 on his shock at discovering what appeared to be a freckle was actually melanoma, a common form of skin cancer.
“I still have cancers taken off my back and arm now. I’ve had two this year, so five altogether. I previously had one on my lip which took me out of action for two months because they had to laser my lip off, and then re-construct it. That was five years ago,” he explained.
Ross blames his own, and others’, ignorance of the dangers of the sun when they were children. While he takes care to always wear long-sleeved shirts now, it wasn’t the case when he was younger – and he believes he will continue to pay the price.
“As children, we didn’t look after ourselves at the beach … A lot of grandparents over 60 don’t realise the cancers we have now are from childhood,” he said. “I’ve lost three mates to melanoma now – all because they had one tiny dot on their back that they didn’t have checked. I remember saying to myself ‘but that’s just a freckle’, and my specialist said ‘that freckle, in five years, would have killed you’.”
Ross has also battled prostate cancer, as well as a bowel cancer scare, and said he was determined to keep working as much as possible throughout treatment, adding: “Now I get tested every year. The thing that’s tragic is a lot of my mates don’t have a clue. It’s so simple to have a blood test.”
The beloved TV star believes there’s a great need to keep busy through illness and grief, insisting being outside in the garden proved the best therapy throughout his own health problems. “Gardening helped me with my own battles. If I didn’t have the garden to sit in, I don’t know…”
In fact, Ross’ mother lived in a beautiful garden and loved to watch her son working in it – something he believes helped her live healthily to 97. He went on: “We all watched her age gracefully, watching her garden grow. Everyone should have that opportunity.”
Ross said he spoke very openly with his family including his three young grandchildren, as “the tragedy is that children and people of all ages get cancer too”.
Recalling one moment a bird flew into his window and died, Ross admitted he kept it to show the kids, as a lesson that tragedies can happen. “I said, ‘you’ve got to enjoy the day’.”
Meanwhile, asked if he has any plans to retire, he insisted he wants to keep going as long as he can, adding: “It’s really critical for over-60s in this country to not think that they shut down. The retirement is the beginning, not the end, it’s the beginning of a whole new life experience. Gardening is one of those things you can pick up at 60 too.”