Cancer survivor since 2012
Tony has made a living talking to people and recording their stories for the world to read, watch and listen to, but one thing he found difficult to talk about was his health.
Tony sadly lost his Dad to prostate cancer. He grew up being very close to his father and attributes his love of sport to his relationship with his Dad. When Tony’s Dad became sick, talking about his health was
the last thing his family wanted to do. Health had always been a scary subject for the family, so much so that when his Dad fell ill, Tony’s mother told her kids not to let his Dad know how sick he really was.
“Cancer was something you didn’t talk about. It was the big C. You don’t talk about it, you don’t tell anyone.”
Tony’s dad passed away while Tony was in his first year in University College Cork. He says that because his father's cancer was not caught early, Tony has missed out on the “next stage” of his relationship with his Dad. One in which they could have been equals, and more friends than father and son. Tony regrets that due to the lack of awareness surrounding prostate cancer, the illness took his dad from him too early.
Tony grew up around a sports mad culture in Cork, so was accustomed to the idea of men being encouraged to be “strong in the tackle”, but Tony believes that physical strength isn’t the only thing you need to get through cancer.
“Men don’t talk” Tony says. “but until recently there has been no network for men to be able to talk openly about how they’re feeling. I was drawn to the media because I like to talk to people and hear their stories, but I was always reluctant to share my own when it came to my health. Now more than ever I talk about how I’m feeling with people. I’m terrified of my cancer coming back, and if I kept that all bottled up, it would eat away at me until there was nothing left.”
Tony had his own brush with cancer in February 2011. After taking the advice of an RTE makeup artist Siobhan Power, Tony went to get a lump on his neck checked. It was cancer. Tony describes his diagnosis as something that “stops you in your tracks and stops you thinking of the next match or the next broadcast”. After his initial test’s Tony underwent surgery and later received radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
Later that same year his son Tim, who he named after his father, was born. Tony has also been able to watch his daughter Aoife graduate from UCD, so he had plenty of reasons to want to hang around.
Now, eight years later Tony still goes to get regular checks every three months to make sure he is healthy and these tests allow him to take control of his own health. Something Tony encourages every man to do.
“We need to start thinking about our health in the long term, not just tonight, next week next month. Men need to be more aware of their health and start to take control of it. We need to start looking out for the warning signs and not be embarrassed about getting tested, and talking about getting tested.”
If caught early, prostate cancer has over a 90% survival rate. Had Tony’s father been aware of the signs, the two may have had a lot more time together. One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer but when caught early it is very treatable. It's important to talk about your health, and get tested if you have any worries. It could save your life.