Former Queensland premier Anna Bligh says her diagnosis with non-Hodgkin lymphoma was a devastating blow but things are getting better.

Former Queensland premier Anna Bligh says she had contemplated dying from cancer.

Australia’s first and, to date, only popularly elected female premier is now recovering from non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

But in a candid television interview, the 53-year-old mother of two says she was completely unprepared for the news last year.

“For me, it was a devastating blow,” she told the ABC’s One Plus One program, which airs on Friday night.

Ms Bligh, who served as premier from 2007 to 2012, said that while treatments had improved in recent years, it was “still pretty gruelling”.

“The harder thing was submitting to it, just accepting that I couldn’t undergo chemo and keep doing everything else,” she said.

“I’m not someone who enjoys slow very much.”

But Ms Bligh, who is now Sydney-based, said she was now “very well and very happy to be well”.

“My tests have come back clear and my doctor has encouraged me to live like I’m never going to see it again and that’s what I intend to do,” she said.

The former premier said she had “absolutely” confronted her mortality.

“You go through a long period of having to think about that, and contemplate the fact that maybe treatment wouldn’t work, maybe this was a long, drawn-out period of illness that may not end with a happy story,” she said.

“I don’t think anyone can confront something like that without going through a lot of emotions that they might not otherwise have to confront.”

The former Labor politician said she did not want to die before becoming a grandmother.

“There’s lots of unfinished business there,” she said.

Ms Bligh, who lost power in Labor’s 2012 landslide defeat, had surgery in May last year to remove a pea-size lump on her face two days after flying to Brisbane to front Queensland’s health payroll inquiry.

* One Plus One airs on ABC News 24 at 8.30pm (AEDT) on Friday.