Downton Abbey star reveals he's been battling cancer for 18 years

The actor has also starred in EastEnders and Fawlty Towers

Downton Abbey actor Nicky Henson has revealed that he has been battling cancer for the past 18 years. In a candid essay in The Mirror, the 72-year-old shared his ordeal, confessing that he feels "lucky" to be alive having been diagnosed with the disease twice. He wrote: "It's amazing what they can do now. When my generation heard the 'c' word we thought that's it. My three sons looked it all up on the internet and said, 'Listen dad, it's not like the old days - you'll be alright.' And I have been for 18 years."

Nicky Henson has revealed he has been battling cancer for nearly 20 years

It was on Christmas Day 18 years ago that Nicky found out he had gastro-intestinal stromal tumours. The actor then had half his colon and part of his stomach removed before he started dating an anti-cancer drug. Despite the surgery and the drugs, the large tumour in his stomach came back. "I've been fighting cancer for 18 years now so it's just part of my life," he explained. "Whatever happens, happens. It's not so much fighting it, it's keeping a sense of humour."

STORY: Downton Abbey star reveals he nearly died at birth

He added: "I swim half a mile every day but I've always done that. I haven't smoked for about 45 years, but I drink alcohol and I'm not going to stop having a good time. If I'm going to be here, you need to enjoy it! I consider myself a very lucky person." Following his first battle, Nicky learnt he had prostate cancer. He has credited his family for helping him stay positive, saying: "My wife Marguerite has been extraordinary. Aside from the fact she saved my life about four times after finding me in difficult situations, she has to deal with the day-to-day side."

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