Health: Cancer Killed My Dad and Brother.Then I Found out I Had It; Two Years Ago Birmingham-Born DJ Johnnie Walker Was Diagnosed with Cancer. Today He Speaks Frankly to Lifestyle Editor ZOE CHAMBERLAIN about How Overcoming the Disease Changed His Life - and Sparked Painful Memories

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Byline: ZOE CHAMBERLAIN

WHEN Johnnie Walker was diagnosed with cancer, it brought back the pain of a double family tragedy.

The BBC Radio 2 DJ had lost both his father and his brother to the devastating disease.

But even Birmingham-born Johnnie admits he was initially struck with the 'it can't happen to me' syndrome.

'I'd just returned from my honeymoon with my wife Tiggy and I began feeling ill,' says Johnnie, 59, and a former Solihull School pupil.

'I thought I was suffering from a touch of Delhi belly and didn't think much about it to start with.

'But when I went to my GP, he referred me to a specialist. I was later diagnosed with nonHodgkin's lymphoma (NHL).

'It was showing as a tumour in my colon, which is unusual because the disease tends to show as a lump in your neck or underarm.

'When the tests began I had a sneaking suspicion it might be cancer. Both my father and younger brother died of it.'

But as he battled NHL - the third fastest growing cancer behind skin and lung - disaster struck.

While recuperating after a fourth course of chemotherapy last October, Johnnie's intestines burst and he was rushed to hospital.

'It was touch and go for a while,' he says. 'I had an emergency operation and I was in intensive care for a week afterwards. My weight dropped to eight stone and, of course, I was completely bald from the chemotherapy. 'Having to deal with cancer or any other life-threatening experience makes you realise there are no guarantees about anything in this life. It makesyou realise that you're very lucky. 'I don't think about my cancer every day but I do think of eachday as a gift. I now get outand do more rather than just sitting and planning and thinking about things.

'When you marry, you take vows saying for better or for worse. Tiggy got all the worst straight away. Being a carer for a cancer patient is a very difficult role and there's not much support for them.

'But this has definitely brought us closer together.'

Johnnie bravely returned to air on Radio 2 in March.

'It was quite a challenge but I was given tremendous support by the BBC and my listeners,' he says. …