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Dancing With The Stars judge Julian Benson gets Covid-19 jab after a year of cocooning due to cystic fibrosis


Julian Benson on Dancing With The Stars. Picture: Kyran O'Brian/RTÉ

Julian Benson on Dancing With The Stars. Picture: Kyran O'Brian/RTÉ

Julian Benson on Dancing With The Stars. Picture: Kyran O'Brian/RTÉ

Dancing With The Stars judge Julian Benson today came out of cocooning for over a year to receive his first Covid-19 vaccine jab.

The 50-year-old suffers from cystic fibrosis and is in a high risk category for catching the deadly disease.

“This morning was a very emotional and exciting day,” announced Julian, who attended St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin.

“After a year of cocooning I got my first vaccine jab!

“Was even more special that it was administered by an amazing nurse (Therese Carrigan) who has cared for me and many cystic fibrosis patients for over 30 years.”

Julian was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of two and was given a life expectancy of 13 years.

He kept his diagnosis private for over 40 years before revealing it in an interview with Ryan Tubridy on the Late Late Show in early 2018.

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Later that year, Benson launched the Julian Benson CF Foundation, an organisation fighting to help those with the respiratory disease.

Julian insisted he never let the illness 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… mind it, look after it and keep going,” he said.

Benson, who is also a talent agent, choreographer and former dancer, occasionally missed the hit RTÉ show due to his medical condition.

He said his late 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 20 to 30 pills per day, and 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

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.

It is a genetic disorder that affects mostly the lungs, but also the pancreas, liver, kidneys and intestine. Long-term issues include difficulty breathing and coughing up mucus as a result of frequent lung infections.

The average life expectancy of someone with CF is between 42 and 50 years in the developed world. Lung problems are responsible for death in 80% of people with cystic fibrosis.

Recognised 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.

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