independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Anti-smoking campaigner given just months to live

Gerry Collins with his wife Delly and children Ciara, Lisa and Stephen at Dr Steeven’s Hospital, Dublin, for the launch of the HSE
advert against smoking. Picture: STEPHEN COLLINS/COLLINS PHOTOS
Gerry Collins with his wife Delly and children Ciara, Lisa and Stephen at Dr Steeven’s Hospital, Dublin, for the launch of the HSE advert against smoking. Picture: STEPHEN COLLINS/COLLINS PHOTOS

HE was the face of a national anti-smoking campaign but now former Dublin footballer Gerry Collins has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

Mr Collins (57) wishes he could turn back the clock and have never started smoking after being told he has months to live.

The former GAA star thought he had beaten the illness after overcoming throat cancer in 2008.

The father of three went on to participate in the HSE's 2011 Quit campaign, appearing in TV and film adverts.

However, in June of this year, Mr Collins, who started smoking at 17 and went on to smoke 60 cigarettes a day, was told by doctors he had just eight months to a year to live after they discovered he had an inoperable lung tumour.

After learning of the news, he said he and his family initially struggled to come to terms with the diagnosis, but he subsequently contacted the HSE as he saw his condition as "an opportunity" to highlight the dangers of smoking and leave behind an important legacy.

He said he was with his wife Fidelma and children when he got the diagnosis "and we just went into a church and cried, basically".

"There's a church in St Vincent's Hospital and we just went in there and cried for a bit," he said at the launch of the new ad campaign, which will be appearing on Irish televisions, showing him enjoying dinner with his family.

He added: "I hope to continue in the fight against smoking. For me, it's a nice legacy to leave behind.

"People who are killed in a car crash never get to say goodbye. I've an opportunity to say goodbye. As sad and all as it is for the family, they're very lucky."

ACTIVE

Mr Collins, who lives in Greystones, Co Wickloe, and previously ran a recruitment company, continues to enjoy an active lifestyle, having lined out with Dublin in the 1980 Leinster football final. He also coaches with Kilmacud Crokes.

He said he was still "probably in denial" about his condition but insists his addictive personality is helping him to concentrate on his other interests and he is looking forward to spending time with his family in the coming weeks and months.

"If I can get through the day with a bit of peace and contentment every day, that's good enough for me. If I can spend time with the kids, I'm happy with that."

Data from the HSE shows one in every two smokers dies from tobacco-related illnesses with smoking the leading cause of preventable deaths in Ireland every year.

The Quit campaign prompted more than 480,000 quit attempts following its launch in 2011.

Irish Independent

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