Thursday 17 January 2019

'I have CF, but CF doesn't have me' - DWTS judge Julian Benson opens up about living with cystic fibrosis

Julian Benson spoke out about living with CF on The Late Late Show
Julian Benson spoke out about living with CF on The Late Late Show
Conor McCrave

Conor McCrave

Dancing with the Stars judge Julian Benson has spoken for the first time about living with Cystic Fibrosis after he was diagnosed with the lung condition as a child.

On Friday's Late Late Show, the 47-year-old insisted he never let the disease stop him from following his dreams of being a dancer saying, “I have CF but CF doesn't have me.  It doesn’t define who I am.”

“Everyone has their own challenges in life to deal with so it was just like, meet Julian, I would get dealing with my CF as anybody else does. Mind it, look after it and keep going,” he said.

Benson said his mother was his “rock” and his “best friend” as she encouraged him to pursue dancing despite the complications caused as a result of his diagnosis. He said it wasn’t until years after his diagnosis that he realised the extent of the condition.

"This was the most amazing thing," he said.  "I felt like any other child.  My mum had worked this fantastic scenario. I went to school like everyone else.  I knew, okay, Julian gets up, Julian takes his medication, he goes to school, he does everything else and I was encouraged to do everything I wanted to do so I felt like everyone else."

He added, "I have CF but CF doesn't have me.  It doesn't define who I am.  I really mean that and I put that down to my mum.  I was encouraged to do everything I wanted to do.  I wanted to dance.  I was always dressing up.  I was always listening to music, and watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies.  I was all about music.  Music was my medicine."

He described treatment for the condition as a “regime” which involves taking twenty to thirty pills per day, having physio, as well as injections to treat his diabetes.

Determined to go to UCD after school, he revealed that he completed his Leaving Cert exams in a small room in St Vincent's Hospital after his mother contacted the school and the school contacted the Department of Education. He managed to secure a place at the university.

He also spoke movingly about nursing his mother through the final stages of lung cancer.

"I went through the whole system of chemotherapy, operations, learning to give her injections," he revealed.

"Everyone out in the audience has a friend or family member they know or cared for personally or were involved in the experience. Right to the end I cared for her and it was the most magical, best thing I've ever done in my life.

"It's so important for us to give back to our parents and our loved ones.  It was the least I could do to give back for the love, care, everything she gave me all my life.  We had the most magical time together."

Cystic Fibrosis affects around 1,300 adults and children across Ireland, and has a particularly high rate of diagnosis here compared to other countries across Europe.

Recognizable for his sparkling outfit choices on Dancing with the Stars, Benson said he wanted to use his position to inspire others to follow their dreams.

 “If I ever got to a stage in my life that I had a platform and that I got to a successful point that I could maybe share my story, to help other people believe in themselves, to just go for their goals and dreams," he said.

Read more: 'It was very emotional for my mother to see me walking down the aisle' - mum (35) living with cystic fibrosis 

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