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James Brokenshire tells how cancer turned his world upside down

By Brett Campbell

The former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has opened up about his battle with cancer following his return to the Cabinet last week.

James Brokenshire had a third of his right lung removed in January after a cancer diagnosis forced him to quit his demanding job on his 50th birthday.

The non-smoker had only been in the job for 14 months when he coughed up blood while at Hillsborough Castle last September.

"It came as a complete shock," he said. "I didn't know what to think - your heart starts pounding and you get a knot at the core of your stomach."

His world was turned upside down when doctors told him he had lung cancer.

The Bexley MP expressed gratitude to his wife Cathy who encouraged him to visit his GP which quickly led to a CT scan and a subsequent bronchoscopy on December 7 - the procedure involves having a camera inserted into the lungs.

It was the same day the Prime Minister announced her big breakthrough in the first phase of Brexit talks.

Mr Brokenshire described Theresa May's response when he told her the reason he wouldn't be available the day after her big announcement as "absolutely brilliant". "For goodness sake, you've got to put your health first," she told him.

Not long afterwards doctors confirmed the devastating discovery of a tumour but Mr Brokenshire had to endure an anxious wait on the results of a biopsy.

"There are lots of thoughts racing through your mind," he said.

The growth was confirmed to be malignant shortly before the father-of-three went on a long-planned family holiday to Australia to visit relatives whom he concealed the illness from.

However he did have a "hard conversation" with his three daughters. "You have to be honest, but try not to scare them," he told the Daily Mail.

"By that stage I knew something was pretty seriously wrong.

"You're looking to the future and thinking 'is there a future?"

Despite receiving the good news that the cancer had been caught early enough for doctors to operate, Mr Brokenshire was forced to resign as Northern Ireland Secretary. However, the MP returned to the front benches in the Commons after being appointed minister for Housing, Communities and Local Government last Monday.

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