herald

Thursday 17 January 2019

Killeen gives insight into Lenihan cancer

COURAGE: Working on may have helped, says colleague

A FORMER ministerial colleague of Brian Lenihan's has given an absorbing insight into how the late TD dealt with his illness.

Mr Lenihan (52) died early on Friday morning following an 18-month fight against pancreatic cancer.

Former defence minister Tony Killeen -- who was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2008 -- admitted it was difficult at times to combine work with his own treatment regime.

But there are benefits to keeping busy while battling the disease, he said.

"Not many people (diagnosed with pancreatic cancer) get more than three or four months. He had 18 -- it's still very short though," Mr Killeen (58) told the Herald.

Speaking of his own situation, the ex-Clare TD said: "Of course it was difficult. Particularly with chemotherapy. Any invasive surgery is difficult but when you throw in chemo it is pretty tough."

He and the former finance minister frequently spoke about their conditions.

"We talked a lot about it. People with common experiences do tend to talk a lot about it. He was not downbeat. He was extraordinarily strong and upbeat really.

"The job of politics is so absorbing -- in many respects he was right [to keep his position].

"He was extraordinarily well placed to lead the nation in the very difficult challenges that the country faced and still faces. It's not always easy to walk away from that," Mr Killeen said.

His own health is "not too bad". "I'm doing okay most of the time," he said.



NAUSEA

Mr Killeen said chemotherapy results in "very severe nausea" and causes a general "lack of energy on the days when it impacts".

"Most people have 12 or so symptoms -- some people get all of them and some people get some of them.

"Most of them get nausea. There are a few days when you don't feel up to much."

Despite the symptoms, Mr Killeen did not take days off.

"You do different work for those days," he said.

He believes that "in some respects" his high-pressure job helped him cope.

"Ministerial work is such that you are under a fair bit of pressure -- it certainly means you don't dwell on other things, which I suppose is a bit of a plus. I cut down on the ancillary work that TDs do, like constituency work. I would concentrate on departmental stuff.

"Brian adopted a very similar approach. You adopt a system that works," he said.

But Mr Killeen added: "In other senses the burden of the work and the stress is particularly difficult. The medical people are very clear -- they say you should take six months off work."

comurphy@herald.ie

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