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Lenihan in hospital for chemotherapy as cancer battle begins

Brian Lenihan was beginning a gruelling course of chemotherapy today in his battle to beat pancreatic cancer.

The Finance Minister was said to be in good spirits after receiving what a friend said was an "exceptionally positive" reaction to public statements earlier this week.

Mr Lenihan spoke openly on Monday about learning that he had cancerous tissues at the entrance to his pancreas, but added that he was determined to battle on as head of the Department of Finance.

Private

That work continued this week with the publication of the 2009 Exchequer figures but Mr Lenihan was due to take his first break today to attend hospital for treatment.

A close source said: "It's a very personal thing now. He wants to do this part of it without anyone outside of his family looking on. That's why he was so open about everything and let the media and public know exactly what is going on."

During a series of media engagements on Monday, an upbeat Mr Lenihan revealed: "It's a growth I intend to defeat -- or it will defeat me." A friend explained: "He wanted people to see that he was well in the hope that they would then allow him to deal with this difficult aspect of his life in private."

They added that Mr Lenihan was heartened by the reaction he had received from the members of the public, especially as he knew many punters were only now feeling the true affects of December's Budget.

That massive public support continued online today with the number of subscribers to a "politics aside" Facebook group reaching 7,000.

Among the dozens of posts left in the hours leading up to Mr Lenihan's treatment were ones describing him as "an inspiration" and "courageous".

One contributor wrote: "Brian, wishing you and your family all the best in the coming weeks and months with your treatment. You are a true champion and inspiration to the people of this country and I admire you for that. Keep the positive attitude."

Another said: "With strong leadership, clarity, toughness & direction like yours, the people of this nation can once again have faith in the people in charge, which, in turn will boost confidence."

Meanwhile, TV3 may not have its own representative on a debate to be screened on the channel tonight about its controversial decision to broadcast details of Brian Lenihan's cancer on St Stephen's Day.

A live debate is scheduled to take place tonight on the commercial channel's Tonight With Vincent Browne Show.

Pressure

A panel of experts has been lined up by presenter Browne to discuss the fallout from the story, which has led to more than 70 complaints to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

The line-up will include political commentator Noel Whelan and Michael Foley, of the department of journalism and communications at the Dublin Institute of Technology. A TV3 spokesman said the station's handling of the Lenihan controversy would be just one of the topics dealt with by the panel.

Mr Browne said the topic for discussion had been his idea and there had been no pressure "one way or another" from TV3.


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