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Jonnie Irwin shares 'welcome distraction' at Christmas amid terminal cancer battle

He was first diagnosed in 2020

Jonnie Irwin has been keeping his fans up to speed with his cancer battle since 2022. (Alamy)
Jonnie Irwin has been keeping his fans up to speed with his cancer battle since 2022. (Alamy)

A Place in the Sun favourite Jonnie Irwin kept Instagram fans up to speed with his Christmas Day antics this week.

Posting a mid-beer selfie, he wrote: "It's been a while since I waited outside for the pub to open but freshly lit fires and a pint were a welcome distraction on the short walk to Christmas lunch. He wrote: "Hope you all had lovely days and enjoying Boxing Day as it should be. #christmas #christmasdaypint."

Irwin, who has three children with his wife Jessica Holmes, is battling terminal lung cancer after being originally diagnosed by doctors in 2020, and received many compliments in the comment section. "[You're] looking great!! Cheers to you and hope you have a wonderful New Year", "Lots of love to you and your family - keep fighting honey" and "I'm sure you had a great Christmas Day with your lovely family. Enjoy the rest of the Christmas period and hope that the New Year brings good news on the health front. X," read three of the messages.

Irwin's cancer diagnosis

During an interview with HELLO! at the time of his cancer announcement, Irwin admitted it was unclear how long he had left to live, "but I try to stay positive and my attitude is that I'm living with cancer, not dying from it.

"I set little markers – things I want to be around for," he noted. "I got into the habit of saying: 'Don't plan ahead because I might not be well enough.' But now I want to make plans. I want to make memories and capture these moments with my family because the reality is, my boys are going to grow up not knowing their dad and that breaks my heart. I'm doing everything I can to hold that day off for as long as possible. I owe that to Jess and our boys. Some people in my position have bucket lists, but I just want us to do as much as we can as a family."

While stopping by the Good Morning Britain studio, the TV star opened up on why it had taken two years for him to come forward with the cancer news. "I was in fear of kind of what's happened to some extent," he said, referring to being let go by Channel 4.

"When people find out you have got cancer... I know what I felt when I just heard the words, it's just this terrifying thing, the word cancer. And I thought, if I feel like that, everybody else will feel like that and lo and behold I lost some work through it.

"I wanted to keep it secret because professionally I didn't want to lose work but also socially and emotionally people treat you differently and people start making decisions for you. If I withheld that information, I found I could live a normal life right up until probably a year ago."

He first landed the A Place in the Sun presenting job in 2004. (Channel 4)
He first landed the A Place in the Sun presenting job in 2004. (Channel 4)

Last Christmas time, the 49-year-old claimed on Morning Live that cancer was "the most terrifying word in the English language" and immediately triggers an overbearing response. "We don't need mollycoddling," he told the hosts, before doubling down with: "We are normal human beings, as normal as it gets. So treat us as you would do two years ago. We're normal human beings the same as everyone else and we want the same opportunities for fun and living as everybody else gets."

Treatment

Although there is no cure for Irwin's condition, his efforts to make life a little more comfortable brought him to hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which "increases the amount of oxygen available to the body's tissues, thereby creating an environment that is more conducive to healing certain conditions".

This has coincided with pain relief in the hospice. Defiantly breaking down perceptions of palliative care, he also shared on Morning Live: "My hospice is a delight actually, I wouldn't say it's like a hotel but it's like a very nice private hospital." He added: "My perception of a hospice was a boiling hot room full of people that look frail and towards the end of their days. It's nothing of the sort. It's spacious, energised, comfortable. It's even got a jacuzzi bath!"

Irwin explained: "My first experience of palliative care and a hospice was blood transfusions as a day patient. I was invited to use it and I thought I'd give it a go. I went into this lovely room, biscuits piled up beside me, and I just dipped in and out. I would implore people if you've got the choice of using it then use it.

"It's a service provided, not wholly by the NHS, my hospice is majority funded privately. You have a right to a choice of a hospice if you so wish, but I would encourage people to explore that because it's not that doom and gloom operation that you might have thought it was."

The 49-year-old can't speak highly enough of palliative care. (BBC)
The 49-year-old can't speak highly enough of palliative care. (BBC)

Most recently, the star was knocked back by a nasty chest infection, too, which lead him to salt therapy. Posting shots from a health and wellness clinic based in Newcastle, he wrote to his social media followers: "Hitting my chest infection from all sides; antibiotics (I tried to ride it out but was getting worse) 2 hours this morning in my @o2worx hyperbaric chamber and now down at @sereniti_health breathing deeply in the Salt Room.

"So relaxing and got this place to myself! All wrapped up and relaxed. I feel I've got some great and knowledgeable people around me atm. #saltylips #alternativetherapies #healthspa #healthandwellness." This is a natural treatment for respiratory, sinus, allergy and skin conditions, reducing inflammation and congestion through the absorption of Himalayan salt minerals.

Regrets

One crushing aspect of his cancer journey has been a lack of critical illness insurance. Discussing his situation on the AIG Life's One Chat podcast, Irwin revealed: "I didn't take critical illness insurance out and therefore I had to keep working. Without work, I've got no means of paying the bills.

"And if I had taken the critical illness insurance out, that could've covered my outgoings and I probably could've told the world a lot sooner. I could've had two years of living a more open lifestyle. And I want people to learn from that mistake. Maybe because I know what benefits it would have had, it just seems ridiculous that I didn't," he lamented.

"I thought I was doing well just taking out life insurance. It's one positive thing and helped me a great deal in getting a financial position in life to know my wife and my boys are more secure. But how I wish I'd taken out that extra cover." As recent as this month, he's been busy infront of the camera bringing in the money for his young family.

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