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Jonnie Irwin kept cancer secret from TV chiefs so he could keep working

Leicestershire Live logo Leicestershire Live 24/11/2022 Ben Hurst
Jonnie Irwin kept cancer secret from TV chiefs to keep working © Channel 4 Jonnie Irwin kept cancer secret from TV chiefs to keep working

A Place in the Sun Leicestershire star Jonnie Irwin has revealed he kept his battle with cancer from TV bosses because he feared losing vital work. The dad who has a terminal dose of the deadly disease said he wanted to make sure his family had enough money.

In a candid interview with the Sun, Jonnie said he was ‘determined to keep living’. The dad-of-three was given just six months to live in 2020 after being diagnosed with lung cancer, which had spread to his brain. He says medication, radiotherapy and chemo have helped keep him alive longer than expected.

He accused bosses of not giving him more work after his diagnosis was revealed - vindicating his decision to keep it quiet for two years. He said: “As soon as I told A Place in the Sun about my diagnosis they paid me for the rest of the season but didn’t renew my contract. They knew I wanted to carry on. That hurt. That broke my heart. I feel hugely let down. I can’t even watch the show now.”

Read more: Who Leicester's Jonnie Irwin is, his wife and kids and how he was diagnosed with terminal cancer

In a statement released after the interview Channel 4 and the production company behind the show, Freeform, both said they had ‘left no stone unturned’ in trying to support Jonnie to try to continue allowing him to film internationally. They added: “We, of course, understand how frustrating this must be for him at this incredibly difficult time.”

The presenter said his family was now his priority: “I’m a family man and I need to put a roof over our heads and food on the table but work is something that’s really important to me. It also stops me thinking about cancer.

"I want to go knowing that Jess and the boys are looked after. I told them I wanted to work. When I said I can get you doctor notes and assurances from my oncologist that I am fit to work, I was told, verbatim, ‘Oh, you really don’t want to go down that route, do you?’

"They said, ‘We don’t think we can get the insurance’, not ‘We can’t get the insurance’, but, ‘We don’t think…’ “That broke my heart and affected my mental health. Within two weeks someone else was on TV doing my job.”

Jonnie grew up on a small farm in the village of Bitteswell, near Lutterworth, and was a keen rugby player until he was forced to retire after injuring his back. He played for local teams Lutterworth RFC and Rugby Lions RFC.

The former Lutterworth Grammar School pupil is married to Jessica Holmes with whom he shares three young children. He has carried on working during his treatment filming for Escape to the Country as well as working on commercial projects.

He was also deeply moved by the number of people getting in touch to offer support including people who he worked with. He said: “I’ve had a lot of fun in my life and it turns out I’ve been quite fun to be around.

“It feels like I’ve had a chance to see my own wake and hear my own eulogy. In the meantime, I’m determined to just keep living.”

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