Paul Martin opens up about facing ‘almightly challenge’ from rare blood cancer

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Showbiz journalist Paul Martin has spoken frankly about the “almighty challenge” he faces having been diagnosed with rare blood cancer.

The 41-year-old father of three was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma on Thursday and having informed his family and friends over the weekend, he penned a heartfelt blog about the life-changing experience which he published on Sunday evening.

In his blog ‘Journey of a journo’ he wrote: “2019 started with a turgid battle in hospital with an auto immune problem that brought a crippling case of pneumonia to my door.

“The recovery was epic and after putting on three stones I’ve been hitting the gym, running and having the greatest times with my children who have never been closer to me.

“‘We’ve noticed a shadow that’s got bigger. Probably nothing to worry about but we need to run further tests’ said the anonymous voice at the end of the phone who had called from the quite magnificent godsend that is the Royal Hospital in Belfast.

“Two days later I’m on the third floor of the City Hospital. Free coffee, free tea, great doctors. Utter terror.”

He continued: “I won’t go into specifics but my apprehensions were confirmed. The diagnosis is a blood cancer and, well, it’s going to throw me one almighty challenge.

“The first being who to tell?

“My eldest son James had been a close confident as things started to look a bit dodgy three weeks before when an official diagnosis of cancer was still a possibility, but unlikely.

“His compassion and clear worry were both tangible. I put him under orders not to tell anyone but our bond is such that simply hiding this all from him, especially as he nears 14, was inconceivable.

“Along with his vital lines of communication with me he was offered regular reassurance from my eldest daughter Mariah and my wonderful mum. It’s so important to talk about these things openly when children reach their teens.

“I came home from the appointment that Thursday afternoon feeling mystified and broken. But with the children due to charge through the door in 15 minutes I had to park my anxiety and quickly devise a strategy about breaking the news to them.

“My instinct was to say nothing. But with the potential treatment on the close horizon this would only be delaying the inevitable emotional carnage.

“As we sat on the sofa it just came out. “My babies. I got some news from the hospital today and I’ve got cancer but I’m going to be OK and every one of you is my complete inspiration to get through this.”

“James seemed strangely passive, Sonny’s first words were; ‘Daddy are you going to die?’

“‘Of course not,’ I insisted, feigning an upbeat laugh and cuddling him as tight as I ever have. ‘Then can we go an play football now in the garden?’

“Isabelle broke down inconsolably. Burying her face on my shoulder the tears streamed and the questions rolled. ‘Will you lose your hair? How long will you live? Can I stay with you longer I want to make you well?’

“I desperately tried to reassure the sweetest and most vulnerable of souls. In the end we managed a good run around in the garden and plenty of cuddles seemed to settle her understandable dismay.”

Having told some friends, Paul said he received “some lovely messages of support”.

He said: “Through the good, bad and ugly of that very testing 24 hours I learnt a lot about the human race and even more about myself.

“Some are compassionate, some just filled with bitterness and self absorbed agendas. Some just want to help, others want to cry with you. Some just don’t know what to say – and that’s cool too. I would probably have been one of them had the shoe been on the other foot.

“And me? Well I’ve got to find the guts to get through this for my children. Yes I’m scared but I’ll get battle ready and give it my best shot.

“You know, there has never been history in my extended family of cancer. We’ve all been lucky that way.

“But without a doubt the past nine months have taken a ruthless and bewildering toll on me. This fact has not escaped the dozens of friends and family who have reached out to me in the past few days.

“Stress causes cancer. I always heard that but never really gave it much thought. So look after yourselves or at least look after someone else.”