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I thought that I was just tired, says top ploughman (23) after shocking leukaemia diagnosis

By Chris McCullough

An award-winning ploughman has revealed that he has been diagnosed with leukaemia.

Friends and family of Andrew Gill (23), from Saintfield, rallied round after the devastating news, organising a charity tractor road run to raise money for the Friends of the Cancer Centre.

When Andrew went to the doctors complaining of feeling very tired, he expected to be sent home with a box of tablets.

Instead, he was diagnosed with leukaemia and is having to undergo four six-week sessions of chemotherapy.

Andrew is currently recovering at home from his first session, but he is due back in hospital in two weeks for the next course of treatment.

"I've always been a hard-working man, getting up at 6am most mornings to help out on the home farm, before going to work as a plasterer," he said.

"In the evenings I was relief-milking for a number of dairy farmers. I was becoming very tired very quickly, but I just thought that I was suffering from overdoing it.

"The local doctor referred me to the City Hospital in Belfast for some tests, and it was there that they discovered I had no white blood cells.

"I was expecting to be sent home with a box of pills, so it really came as quite a shock to be diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia, which is a cancer of the blood.

"I have already gone through my first chemotherapy session in hospital over the past six weeks, and I am now home for a couple of weeks.

"After this I will go back into the hospital for three more chemo sessions, each being six weeks long."

As a result of the punishing treatment, Andrew lost his hair and was having trouble eating hospital food without bringing it back up, but luckily his mum stepped in to bring him some home-cooked grub.

"I couldn't keep anything down in hospital," he explained. "Mum started bringing me in her home-cooked lunches and then some dinners.

"My diagnosis has been quite a shock for my parents too, but I was very grateful she brought me in some home comforts."

Andrew's girlfriend, Ashleigh Coyle, his friends and fellow members of his local Moneyrea Young Farmers' Club (YFC) are all rallying round him to ensure he has all the support he needs at this difficult time.

He has also been able to rely on the help of the Friends of the Cancer Centre charity.

"I have had great support from my family, Moneyrea YFC and also from the Friends of the Cancer Centre," Andrew said.

"The young farmers have been bringing me in PlayStation games, and the Friends of the Cancer Centre even brought me a big flat-screen TV. They come for a chat and take your mind off it.

"Because it's very rare for someone as young as me to have this cancer, I shared a hospital ward with two much older men."

Moneyrea YFC is organising a tractor road run on August 11 to raise funds for the Friends of the Cancer Centre. It starts at 7pm at Hillmount Garden Centre.

Donations can be made online at

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