Sinn Fein MLA and veteran republican Fra McCann has revealed he has been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.
Fra McCann said he received the news a fortnight ago and is “up for the fight”.
In an interview with The Irish News, he described how he ignored seeking medical advice for symptoms until his partner of 38 years, Janette, persuaded him to go to hospital.
He underwent emergency treatment and was told by medics he would have been dead within 24 hours had he not attended.
Mr McCann told the Irish News: “I’d been having difficulties for a couple of months in not being able to go to the toilet but, like a lot of men, I didn’t do anything about it.
“I only have one kidney. I got the other one removed in 1980. So it had all the appearances of a kidney infection. But some weeks ago it got worse. I couldn’t sleep. I was pacing the floor. I couldn’t go to the toilet at all.”
The 66-year-old from the Divis area of west Belfast was later forced to undergo emergency surgery.
He explained: “Just over a fortnight ago my partner insisted that I went to the Royal after my stomach became completely swollen. They put a catheter in and I was transferred to the City Hospital where I was told they needed to do an emergency operation. The kidney had stopped functioning and I had acute renal failure.
“The doctors said if I had not come in on the Monday I would have been dead on the Tuesday.”
Mr McCann, an MLA for West Belfast, was told the cancer had spread to the bones at the lower part of his back and some glands and was incurable but treatable.
“My own GP had said my prostate was very enlarged and you always have something in the back of your head but nothing prepares you. To be told it’s incurable takes the wind out of your sails – but that’s only momentarily. What kicks in then is your family and how they’re going to take it.”
Mr McCann was first elected as a Sinn Fein councillor to Belfast City Council in 1987 and became an MLA in 2003.
A former ‘blanket man’ who joined the republic movement in his teens, Mr McCann was jailed for IRA membership during the 1970s.