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Gerry Kelly feared the worst when doctors said he had cancer

By Ivan Little

Award-winning Ulster broadcaster Gerry Kelly has thanked family, friends and fans for their support after he announced on air that he'd been battling cancer.

The 69-year-old Co Down man shocked BBC Radio Ulster listeners at the weekend with the revelation about his cancer diagnosis.

At the end of a two-part documentary about walking part of the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in northern Spain, Gerry said he had kept his illness a secret for a year and a half.

And yesterday, in a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, the former UTV chat show host said the cancer was caught quickly and treated.

He added: "At the moment the cancer hasn't returned and I am being monitored on a regular basis."

Gerry, who now presents daytime shows on Radio Ulster, added: "I want to thank everyone for their kind words and good wishes."

Gerry said he noticed that he passed blood during a golfing trip to Spain, but tried to tell himself it was a kidney infection and it disappeared.

But the symptoms returned a fortnight following his return home and after Gerry's wife Helena persuaded him to seek medical help he was diagnosed with bladder cancer.

He said that on hearing the news he went numb and feared the worst.

But a tumour was successfully removed and Gerry underwent six chemotherapy sessions.

Only Gerry's family and a small number of people at the BBC were told about Gerry's cancer and his treatment at a private clinic and subsequently at the City and Mater hospitals in Belfast.

Gerry, whose Kelly show was a UTV ratings winner for 16 years from 1989, praised the medical teams for their care and he has urged men not to ignore the warning signs.

He told radio listeners that his cancer experience had been "a journey into the unknown".

Gerry said: "It's been a worrying time for myself and my family, as you can imagine.

"But thankfully the cancer was quickly caught and so far I've got the all-clear."

Gerry, who has two daughters and two grandchildren, said that walking part of the Camino had given him time to take stock of his life, "time to look back and time to look forward".

He added: "Who knows what lies ahead for any of us? The best that any of us can do, I suppose, is to put one foot in front of the other and move forward, just like walking the Camino."

The NHS has said that about 10,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer every year and that it's the seventh most common cancer in the UK.

A spokesman said: "The condition is more common in older adults, with more than half of all new cases diagnosed in people aged 75 and above.

"Bladder cancer is also more common in men than in women, possibly because in the past, men were more likely to smoke and work in the manufacturing industry."

Tens of thousands of pilgrims walk the Camino De Santiago or The Way of St James.

The Camino is a network of routes which cross Spain and Europe that all lead to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where it's said the apostle St James is buried.

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