Thursday 20 September 2018

'You want to lie under the bed, in the dark... and just die' - Gay Byrne on gruelling chemotherapy treatment

Broadcaster Gay Byrne and his wife Kathleen Watkins. Photo: David Conachy
Broadcaster Gay Byrne and his wife Kathleen Watkins. Photo: David Conachy
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Veteran RTE broadcaster Gay Byrne has described the chemotherapy treatment he has been receiving for prostate cancer as “gruelling”.

The 83-year-old, who presented the Late Late Show for 37 years and went on to present the popular Meaning of Life series, said he take 18 tablets a day as well as undergoing chemotherapy.

In an article he wrote for today’s Sunday Independent, Gaybo paid tribute to his wife Kathleen and his two daughters Suzy and Crona who’ve been helping him through his treatment.

“Kathleen, God bless her, was an essential part of all this. Without her, and Suzy and Crona, I could not have survived all this.”

In the days after each chemo session, he said: “There then descends upon you a blanket of such weariness, lassitude, depression, helplessness and hopelessness as I hope you will rarely experience. Think of the worst flu you've ever had and multiply it by 10. It's not that you want to go to bed: you want to lie under the bed, in the dark, with a blanket over you and just die.”

“I saw a brief piece of an interview Christy Dignam did about his treatment and he said: "Chemotherapy is… gruelling." And by God, never was an adjective used so precisely. It is awful. And it goes on for four days at least. Everyone generously offering help of all kinds, but there is no help; there is only misery which must be endured - and some people suffer much more than others.”

“Further, it is cumulative. That is to say, with every successive treatment the effect on the patient is more severe.”

“And then, on the fifth or sixth day, there is a slight turn and one begins to improve: appetite coming back, attitude a bit more optimistic, maybe something to live for after all, perhaps rejoin the human race. And stop crying like a baby, at regular intervals, for no reason. Very often in public and in front of family.”

Byrne said he has read the stories of cancer survivors, and people who have survived serious illnesses, and feels that people have had worse fortunes than him.

But he said: “Every man’s story is his own story. Every man’s pain is his own pain.”

The Dubliner also said he has been inundated by messages of support from loved ones and friends.

“As for the generosity of friends and family: inundated, overwhelmed, astounding – you know all the words which come to mind, and they all apply. The number of people who called to say any hour of the day or night, doesn’t matter how far, doesn’t matter who it is, doesn’t matter what the message or the weather, lift the phone and we’ll be there.”

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