Monday 19 November 2018

Stress and health issues force tearful Blathnaid to abandon RTE show

Emotional presenter reveals her pain at leaving 'Afternoon Show' on medical advice

JOB: Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh and former Afternoon Show co-host Sheana Keane.
JOB: Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh and former Afternoon Show co-host Sheana Keane.

AENGUS FANNING

AN EMOTIONAL Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh has revealed that she is leaving The Afternoon Show on RTE for health reasons.

The experienced presenter has admitted that the long-running saga surrounding the 'bullying probe' and media speculation about her future in broadcasting has added further to her serious health problems.

"I have decided to leave The Afternoon Show" she said in an emotionally charged interview yesterday and she cried as she revealed the harrowing details of the ill-health that has plagued her.

"I am not well at all. A year ago I had a huge operation I had a twisted bowel which is not the sexiest ailment to have -- I'd love to say I had plastic surgery and it went terribly wrong -- but that isn't the case unfortunately," she said.

"I feel a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Only yesterday [Friday] I made the decision and I could barely get out of bed this morning I was so tired. I just found the contemplating what to do was so stressful, you know what they say, 'when you make the decision you've made it and that's it and you can walk away' but trying to make the decision was tough and also being dictated to in the sense that you have to because of your health -- that's not an easy thing for a woman who has worked all her life, you know I've never not worked, I've never not been on TV for 20 years."

There was further pressure on Blathnaid from reports that RTE had launched a probe after her co-presenter in the last series of The Afternoon Show Sheana Keane (33) sought legal advice -- a situation which must have caused her a great deal of added stress, given the extensive coverage it received in the media.

"I now have 17 staples from my pubic bone on my right hand side going all the way up, I am very scared that I will have a colostomy bag and I've been threatened with that so I've just been very unwell and I got the fright of my life and I have to not work," she said.

Instead the 38-year-old mother of four will become a judge in the All Ireland Talent Show. She said that it would be "ridiculous" to continue with The Afternoon Show and that she got "a terrible fright" when she was told that unless she scaled back she could lose her bowel and end up with a colostomy bag.

"I always thought when I heard about people with colostomy bags I'd think 'oh yeah, that happens to people in their 60s you know' and I got a terrible fright, and I have to mind myself, I have to eat every two hours -- even in the night -- I have to eat mushy food, it's like eating like a toddler, there's certain things I can't eat.

"My husband just said it to me the other night, he said 'you're so upset about the fear of it but it might never happen' and I said 'I think that's what's

happened to me' -- I've got so paranoid really about the 'what if' that I'm finding it very hard to relax into some sort of normality, every time there's any sense of a pain under my ribcage I think 'that's it going again' and it's not, I should be fine but unfortunately I've had to take it easy.

"My stomach looks like Jack the Ripper has had a go at it -- you know its horrible, it's horrible to look at. I've had three operations. I think it was all so sudden.

"In May last year I was outside of St Vincent's [hospital] with my sister and she was diagnosed with breast cancer -- daddy died in August -- and between May and August I was rushed into hospital with a twisted bowel and I think everything just happened . . . so I think for me I've had to take a serious step back.

"I really believe there's 20 years of broadcasting left in me, I am very lucky to work in RTE in the sense that I will still be paid, I am a member of staff and I know I am a valued member of staff and they are going to work around my illness until I'm well."

She will also be doing the St Patrick's Day Parade -- which is one of the jobs she loves in broadcasting.

"The prognosis is that if I don't slow down and that means I have to calm down and I have to learn to deal with stress and I feel the pain there for years with stress, it's right in my stomach I'd feel 'oh I'm all knotted' you know if I was hassled about something and even something that was exciting to me I'd feel it there, I have to slow down, I have to take it easier until everything is working properly again."

But Blathnaid is not feeling sorry for herself -- she realises that other people also have crosses to bear -- including close members of her own family, like her father who cruelly had a stroke at the age of 64 and was "robbed of his retirement years."

"Listen, it could be worse" she says. "I could have cancer, I could be told 'make the most of your kids you won't see them and you won't see their 18th' and I'm not exaggerating, like my sister is 42 and she got breast cancer at 42. "But she's doing great," Blathnaid adds. Originally from the Gaeltacht in Co Meath, she and her husband Ciaran have four children, Sheila (13), Peadar (9), Comhghal (7) and six-year-old Darach, "my baby".

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