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Health scare meant I lacked the energy for Northern Ireland: Brokenshire

By Suzanne Breen

Former Secretary of State James Brokenshire has spoken of his shock at being diagnosed with a lesion on his lung - even though he has never smoked.

Mr Brokenshire has revealed how he worked late into the night in the Brexit negotiations last month before going into hospital for invasive tests the next morning.

The Tory politician resigned from the Cabinet last week to focus on his health, with Karen Bradley being appointed in his place. He will have surgery this week for a condition he says has put politics into perspective.

Several weeks ago he had "an odd niggle" with his lungs that was "out of the ordinary" and alarmed him, he told Sky News.

"I think you know intuitively if you have something wrong and I knew that I needed to follow things through," he said.

"I went to see my GP, who was very thorough and organised an X-ray, and then referred me to a consultant. They arranged a series of diagnostic tests that I was taking while continuing day-to-day work in government."

The former Secretary of State explained how he fulfilled his ministerial duties while dealing with his illness.

"There was one acute moment, when we were literally in the final stages of negotiations of the first phase of the Brexit deal, and I was working late into the night in Downing Street," he said.

"The Prime Minister went off to Brussels to conclude the agreement but I knew that I was going to hospital to have a bronchoscopy the following morning.

"It is quite an invasive procedure where they put a probe down your throat to see what is happening, and ultimately that is how they found out."

Mr Brokenshire said it was discovered in the new year that he had a small lesion on his right lung that would require surgery to remove it and a surrounding portion of the lung.

"When you get health news like this it's a real jolt. I have never smoked in my entire life so the thought that I might have something like this never entered my mind," he revealed.

"The other strange part is that physically I feel perfectly well. This weekend I went out for a 10-mile walk knowing that I've got a serious problem that needs to be dealt with.

"It is quite a lot to get your head around."

The former minister said he was "very clear" that he could not deal with his illness while remaining in the Government.

"I couldn't see how I could continue to give the effort and the energy required for front line politics, particularly given the current challenges in Northern Ireland. For me it was obvious what needed to happen," he said.

"I resigned on my 50th birthday, which was not how I imagined the day would go, but I needed to focus on my health and my family."

Mr Brokenshire stated that colleagues from all parties at Westminster and Stormont had been "incredibly supportive and positive".

He said: "In politics you argue your point with all of your effort, energy and endeavour, but when it comes to things like this you receive genuine warmth from across the board.

"I've also had support on social media from friends, local constituents and people I've never met, some of whom have started their messages by saying, 'I'm not a Conservative, I've never voted Tory, but I wish you well'. That is very humbling."

While it had been a "tough" experience, the kindess and support he received from medical staff had been outstanding, he said, and underlined "what I've always felt about the NHS".

He added: "It has been a tough couple of weeks going through the implications.

"But my family, my wife Cathy and the children, have given me strength and encouragement to deal with the physical battles that lie ahead."

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