Friday 17 January 2020

'I did not have the energy to explain cancer - it was enough to work, raise two kids and have somebody sick at home'

Deirdre O’Kane. Photo: David Conachy
Deirdre O’Kane. Photo: David Conachy
Deirdre O'Kane at the Irish Premiere of Rocketman at the Lighthouse Cinema, Dublin. Picture: Brian McEvoy
Deirdre O'Kane and her husband Stephen Bradley
Caitlin McBride

Caitlin McBride

Deirdre O'Kane said she feels "blessed" that her film director husband Stephen Bradley is recovering from bowel cancer.

The comedian, who tours around Ireland and the UK for her work, only publicly shared his diagnosis last November when his health improved and they felt comfortable speaking about it outside those in their inner circle. For months, Deirdre was putting on a brave face, telling jokes at gigs and during her myriad television appearances, never letting the quick-witted facade fade; but privately, she was juggling one of the biggest difficulties of her adult life.

Her husband of 19 years was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in 2016.

"I was only protecting myself," she tells VIP magazine. "I did not have the energy to explain, to talk to people, it was to work, raise two kids and have somebody sick in bed at home. Obviously my family and Stephen's family and my close circle of people knew, but I mean, I was on tour, I was on stage, telling jokes at night so it wouldn't have been useful to go out and talk about that publicly. It wasn't going to serve me in any way.

"But more importantly, we had decided not to tell our kids, so if you're not telling your kids, you can't tell the public."

Deirdre and Stephen told heir two children Holly (14) and Daniel (11) when Stephen entered his recovery phase and said they didn't want to worry them as they were already familiar with cancer from family members and parents of children at school.

Deirdre O'Kane and her husband Stephen Bradley
Deirdre O'Kane and her husband Stephen Bradley

Deirdre, who does voice-over work for Gogglebox Ireland was a contestant 2018's Dancing with the Stars said she was "grateful" for work because as all freelancers know, income can be precarious. She described her time on stage as de-facto therapy sesssions.

"Getting on stage for an hour and a half takes a huge amount of concentration," she explained. "That's good, it's a switch-off button for a certain period of time. It's a release. It wasn't always easy. I had my moments when I didn't want to be there and I didn't want to go on."

"I was quite methodical and quite practical about it and very, very grateful that I had work because he didn't. I've said this the whole time: we're freelancers. There's no sick pay, there's no health insurance kicking in."

O'Kane is famously honest when it comes to her work, previously describing herself as being on "Irish telly money" and said she takes nothing for granted, thriving at the tireless pace at which she works.

"The hardest moment is always: where is the next job? For any freelancer that is the question," she told the Sunday Independent. "I don't know what my salary is from one year to the next. There is no money in this unless you're in the top 0.1pc.

"I'm not on American telly money, or even on English telly money. I'm on Irish telly money. I was never, ever money motivated but children make you more money motivated - they need it more than I do - that smartens you up."

Online Editors

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