Man with weeks to live highlights the importance of early cancer detection

With only a few weeks left to live, Hugh Cooney is desperately trying to spread awareness about cancer and the importance of early detection.

Men in particular, he said, need to pay more attention to their bodies and should go to the doctor with health concerns more often, no matter how insignificant those concerns may seem.

Hugh, who is a former chairman of EnterpriseIreland, was diagnosed with cancer two years ago.

"I was asleep and I woke up with a searing pain. I thought someone had shot me in the abdomen. I had to lay up against the wall all night," he said, speaking on The Late Late Show.

"I went to doctor, an on call doctor, and ended up in St Vincent’s A&E. They thought it was blocked gallstones."

But within days, Hugh had been diagnosed with stage four cancer of the colon.

"I accepted the diagnosis from the start. I was told there was a long road ahead of me. I took the positive from that statement, from the doctor. I’m a fighter so I decided I was going to fight the cancer," he said.

"In the last two years I’ve probably had over 50 chemo sessions. All I said to my doctor at the time was leave no stone unturned, I’m with you. And he has left no stone unturned."

Heartbreakingly, Hugh has now been told he has just a few more weeks to live.

"I’m ready. I’m ready to die."

Hugh takes comfort in the fact he had had a long and successful business career and also fondly remembers his sporting achievements and his time at University College Dublin. But his biggest source of solace is, of course, his family.

Since his diagnosis, Hugh has walked two of his daughters down the aisle, something he was proud to have been able to do before his death.

"I have great memories. As a result I’m at peace with myself," he said.

"But in hindsight I made a couple of errors. Before I was diagnosed I recall two occasions where I passed blood. I didn’t listen to my body. Typical man. Too busy. Macho. Infallible. Woke up the next morning, no problem. Ignored it. But that was the body telling me something."

Now, Hugh wants to send an important message - go to the doctor and get your health checked before it’s too late.

"I’ll say to adults, and in particular men, listen to your body. Learn from mistakes I made. Just do it, go for regular check-ups, be honest when you’re preparing questionnaires for doctors. No shortcuts," he said.

"I want to increase the awareness of cancer and I want to stress the importance of early detection and prevention. Don’t ignore the early warning signs."

Hugh and his family are also currently fundraising in an effort to secure a permanent psychologist for St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin.

"I was surprised that there’s no permanent psychologist in St Vincent’s private day care. I’ve a background of sport so I kind of got on with it but I’ve seen the way people react to cancer and I quickly realised that an experienced psychologist on the ward, giving support to patients, families and friends was something that I wanted to see happen. And that’s the background to the fundraising that I started."

To find out more about Hugh’s fundraising, search for Hugh Cooney Fundraiser on Facebook.

If you have a query or concern about cancer, call the Irish Cancer Society on 1800 200 700 or go to


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