Tuesday 20 March 2018

Brian Kennedy on cancer battle: 'I will do whatever it f***ing takes to beat this'

Despite his recent diagnosis, singer Brian Kennedy finds keeping busy provides a musical balm, writes Barry Egan

Music man: Brian Kennedy Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Music man: Brian Kennedy Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Brian Kennedy flew to Oslo last night to sing with Secret Garden. Tomorrow morning, he is back "on the slab" on St Vincent's hospital in Dublin. The slab is, as he says, to "get my radiation".

One night in mid July Brian "suddenly had a lot of blood - not just a bit - a lot" from his backside.

"I got scared. I thought to myself: 'Oh my God. What is that?'"

He went to his GP and was told there was nothing wrong.

Be that as it may, Brian wasn't happy and felt, he says, intuitively that something was not right.

On July 27 in St Vincent's, Brian was told he had a tumour in his rectum - "three centimetres up inside attached to the lining".

He was diagnosed with rectal cancer.

The good news - "though nothing is set in stone" - is that "they say that this is very treatable. They caught the cancer early."

On August 23, he underwent his first radiation treatment. He will finish his five weeks of radiation treatment, combined with some chemotherapy, in late September.

The only truth Brian says he has learned about existence throughout this painful and terrifying process is to: "Get on with your short life."

"I'm delighted that this is in today's Sunday Independent because it will save me having to tell lots of people.

"I look okay and all the rest, but I am actually battling cancer. And I am trying to be as brave as possible about it and as educational as possible.'"

Two months before his own diagnosis, Brian was told his eldest brother Bap, aka Martin Kennedy, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Brian said the pair of them have been "estranged for more than two decades".

When Brian heard Bap was ill, he contacted him via his wife Brenda.

"I didn't know whether my presence would be welcome, or stressful or not, and I didn't want to do that if someone is that sick. But Brenda came back to me and said 'he is delighted to hear from you'."

Brian soon visited his brother just outside Belfast, where he grew up.

"Music has saved me," Brian says, adding that when he was on stage in Navan the other night there "were moments in the show when I am reminded why I am here on the planet."

Last Thursday after his radiation treatment in St Vincent's, Brian drove to Sligo to record Crazy Love with a massive band for the Nathan Carter TV Show.

"I was just singing Crazy Love to a great audience. And the audience were singing it back to me. And then I got back in my car and drove home through the rain for three hours.

"And then I got up this [Friday] morning and went and had radiation. You just think: 'This is f***ing bizarre'. It is from one extreme to the other.

"I don't know what I would do without the singing. It is my saviour," he said.

"But it is more than ever now - especially when I am trying to face in to cancer as bravely as I can - because it is your mental outset that really will help and dictate how anyone gets through this."

On Friday, Brian was supposed to attend the wedding in Majorca of Shane McGuigan, son of one of his oldest friends, boxer Barry McGuigan.

"I had everything booked. I was supposed to go. I ended up sending them a video. They all know now [I have cancer] but here I am here in Dublin chatting to you after having radiation this afternoon and I was supposed to be in Majorca drinking Champagne, toasting my oldest friend's youngest son on his wedding day, and I couldn't go. And you think: 'Where would I rather be - lying on a slab getting radiation or out in Majorca having a second glass of Champagne?'."

"I mean, it is a first world problem, of course, but at the same time I am acutely aware that you just don't know what is around the corner. And so, as much I was very depressed by the news that I had cancer, but I am also feeling incredibly hopeful because I can see that I am in the best possible hands, and have incredible friends.

"Even the sad songs are some kind of ointment as well. It is important to be sad when you feel sad and it is important to feel scared when you feel scared, because then when you feel happy you will appreciate it. But, Jesus, it is early days, I could be f***ing terrified next week for a couple of hours. It is totally a roller-coaster ride. I think they [the doctors] are also preparing me and saying: 'Look, week one and week two are okay, week three you will be a bit ... and week four and five'.

"At this point, whatever it f***ing takes. I am prepared to fight it and beat it - and walk on to that stage on Vicar Street in Dublin," he says referring to his show on October 13. "And my first song will be A Better Man. How ironic is that?"

Sunday Independent

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