The popular host of two television shows has revealed he has terminal cancer. In a moving and emotional interview with HELLO! magazine, Escape to the Country host Jonnie Irwin speaks for the first time about how he has been diagnosed with lung cancer which has spread to his brain. Until now, the star has chosen to keep his illness private but he has decided to give his only interview in a bid to get "the monkey off my back".
WATCH: Jonnie Irwin's interview with HELLO! - behind-the-scenes
Speaking alongside his wife Jessica, 40 – with whom he shares son Rex, three, and two-year-old twins Rafa and Cormac – Jonnie tells the magazine: "I don’t know how long I have left, 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. 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."
Jonnie was in Italy in August 2020, filming for A Place in the Sun, when he got the first warning sign that something was wrong when his vision went blurry while driving. Tests soon revealed he had lung cancer which had spread to his brain. "Within a week of flying back from filming, I was being given six months to live," he recalls. "I had to go home and tell my wife, who was looking after our babies, that she was on her own pretty much. That was devastating. All I could do was apologise to her. I felt so responsible."
Jonnie and Jessica pictured with their three children
Cancer drugs and chemotherapy have helped prolong Jonnie's prognosis while he has continued to work as much as possible. Throughout, only a very small group of friends and family knew about his diagnosis but he now wants to talk about his illness. "It's got to the point now where it feels like I’m carrying a dirty secret – it’s become a monkey on my back," he says. "I hope that by shaking that monkey off and talking to HELLO!, I might inspire people who are living with life-limiting prospects to make the most of every day; to help them see that you can live a positive life, even though you are dying.
"One day, this is going to catch up with me," he adds. "But 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.
Jonnie also wants to encourage people to take out life insurance. Always "a risk-taker", he finally did so when the twins were born. "That has helped so much and when I leave this planet, I'll do so knowing Jess and the boys are in a house that is fully paid off and there's a bit of money in the bank for them to live off."
To read the full article, pick up the latest issue of HELLO! on sale now. Subscribe to HELLO! to get the magazine delivered free to your door every week or purchase the digital edition online via our Apple or Google apps.