Northern Ireland news

Broadcaster Gerry Kelly urges men to seek medical help when needed

Radio UIster Gerry Kelly has revealed he had bladder cancer two years ago. Picture: Mark Marlow
Joanne Sweeney

VETERAN broadcaster Gerry Kelly has urged men to seek medical help for any worrying symptoms following his diagnosis of a bladder tumour.

The former UTV chat show host has since had the tumour successfully removed and went through six chemotherapy sessions to tackle the cancer.

He revealed news of his illness at the end of his Radio Ulster two-part documentary on walking part of the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in northern Spain.

The Co Down man admitted that he kept news of his cancer strictly confined to close family and told only those "who needed to know" at BBC Northern Ireland, where he has worked since 2009.

But the 69-year-old added that writing and recording the worlds confirming his cancer was one of the most emotional moments in his 40-year broadcasting career.

"This was basically a programme idea. It was never about me walking the Camino or what I would get out of it," he said.

"But when I listened back to my end bit saying about the cancer, I got a bit emotional.

"It’s only six or seven sentences but it was very difficult to write those sentences and to say it out loud."

He believes that he was fortunate to have taken action when he noticed his symptoms, as many people, particularly men, tend to ignore the blood due to embarrassment.

"I was golfing in Spain and passed blood. I thought that doesn’t look good so I came back thinking I had a little infection in my kidneys or something. I never went near the doctor and it went away.

"It came back about a fortnight later and I told my wife Helena. She made me go to the doctor so he sent me up to a consultant for a CT scan and the guy says yes, there is something there in your bladder.

"I realised that they were talking about cancer at that stage. You just go numb and your mind goes blank, then it starts to race: Is this going to kill me, is this how I’ll go?”

While he got the surgery done in the Ulster Clinic, Belfast, all of his follow-up treatment was done at Belfast City Hospital and the Mater Hospital.

“I can’t praise Belfast City Hospital and the Mater high enough. If you had to have this experience, this was the best experience I could have had.

“If you had to have cancer, then the bladder is one of the best places to have it.”

The Ardglass man is the father of two grown-up daughters and has two grandchildren. He says that apart from a bout of pneumonia 30 years ago, he’s never been ill.

"I’ve had a very blessed life. I never had any problems with kids growing up, I’ve never had a problem in my marriage or with money or work. I've been very lucky and I realised on the Camino walk that this is the one little hiccup in it and why not me?” he added.

"I say to men, for God’s sake, just go and get things checked out. Why not? Alright, there’s a bit of embarrassment and indignity at the start but it’s very little to pay for getting a clean bill of health."

"Who knows what is in front of anyone.? It’s a matter of just putting one foot in front of another, just like the Camino, you have just got to get on with life."

:: Gerry Kelly's Stories in Sound: Notes From The Camino is available to listen to again via the BBC Radio iPlayer: bbc.co.uk/radio

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