Saturday 23 September 2017

'Stress of gay secret caused my cancer'

IT'S A PARTNERSHIP: Michael Murphy and Terry O'Sullivan
IT'S A PARTNERSHIP: Michael Murphy and Terry O'Sullivan

Nick Bramhill

FIT-AGAIN RTE newsreader Michael Murphy, right, believes he suffered prostate cancer because of the stress brought on by having to hide his sexuality in Fifties rural Ireland.

The openly gay broadcaster, who chronicled his tough upbringing in Castlebar, Co Mayo, has written a his critically acclaimed autobiography that he believed there was a link between his illness and the misery he endured during his childhood.

Murphy, who is also a French-trained psychoanalyst, made some disturbing revelations about his childhood in his memoirs, including a vicious beating he received at the hands of his late father, Thomas, aged four.

And last week, speaking as a guest of the Kinsale Peace Process, the 64-year-old said it was only recently that he had felt confident enough to fully open up about his sexuality.

"Cancer is physical and a doctor can remove it. But secrets can poison a person's being.

"Growing up in Fifties Ireland and holding on to a secret, I wonder if there's a link to that and my illness."

Murphy, who earlier this year entered into a civil partnership with long-term gay partner Terry O'Sullivan, also said beating cancer had given him the ability to empathise more with patients at his busy Dublin practice.

He said: "I've a second chance of life, which means I feel obliged to make my life count for something. I'm living life in a new way, so nothing is wasted. When I was growing up, I had to hold back, being gay, and suffer in silence.

"But I've realised I no longer have to hide," he added.

Murphy's 2009 autobiography, At Five In The Afternoon, won praise for its searingly honest account of his fight against prostate cancer two years previously.

And he has just finished writing a follow-up, called The House Of Pure Being, which will focus on his fractious relationship with his family, as well as his mother's battle with Alzheimer's.

Last week, Murphy revealed his first book caused him to fall out with his four siblings -- his younger brother Kieran died of cancer when he was just 42 -- because he published details of beatings he received from his father.

But he said the risks of further splits from his family have not put him off following up on his memoirs.

Although fully recovered, he also admitted he still suffers partial erectile dysfunction as a result of his illness.

"Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. It's very frustrating," added Murphy.

Sunday Independent

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