“I AM hollow inside. If you could tap my tummy it would be like a bodhrán,” actress Gerry McLoughlin says gaily of her post-cancer body.
In 2009, she was operated on for advanced colon cancer. Her womb, ovaries, 36 lymph nodes and a large part of her bowel were removed.
During the gruelling treatment it was her family — she is married with three children — particularly her grandchildren, who inspired her.
“I had a photograph of my three grandchildren, literally on my chest, in the hospital. It actually did work, because I said, ‘I am not going to die, I am going to fight this with every ounce of strength that I have’. And I did.”
She is the picture of colonial health — tanned, blonde and dressed in flowing, neutral shades, as if she had just left the set of Out of Africa. The only nagging reminder of her aggressive treatment is that the tips of her finger and feet feel hot. “I live with it — I forget about it when I am at the cinema or talking to others.”
With a career as a radio broadcaster and social diarist on her impressive CV, she is not about to drift into the sunset.
“There is this perception that once you hit your 60s you become hidden — part of the invisible mass. To me, life is an incredibly mysterious place and I love every second of it. I am determined to hang around to get the telegram. ”
* Gerry McLoughlin stars in Sisters, the Tony-nominated play by Declan Hasssett, at the Cat club, Cork, from Aug 6 to 17, excluding Sun 11 and Mon 12.
What shape are you in?
I think excellent — others wouldn’t agree. I’m alive. I could do more exercise. I often take the dog, Sam, for a run on the beach. He is as mad as a box of frogs, but we love him.
Have you any health concerns?
Definitely not. Been there, done that — have the t-shirt.
What are your healthiest eating habits?
Salads and fish. I have a famous fish pie — a mix of fish, cream and bread crumbs — which was given to me by chef, Kieran Stafford.
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Chocolate — Mars bars. I now buy the bite-sized ones. I allow myself two a week. Then, there are Crunchies, Maltesers and Aeros. I have a little piece of chocolate every day.
What would keep you awake at night?
In truth, nothing. Post-chemotherapy, I now take half a sleeping tablet every night — and I cannot stand a hot bedroom.
How do you relax?
By going into a quiet place. No TV, no radio. I take the phone off the hook — for maybe an hour. I have what my daughter calls the nana nap. And I treat myself to massages — neck, back and shoulders.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
President Clinton — I think he is the most incredibly sexy man. The greatest aphrodisiac is power.
What is your favourite smell?
CK1, the perfume: it’s fresh and not overpowering. The nicest, most natural scent is roses.
What would you like to change about your appearance?
I would love to be a size 14. Once you get into the realms of the 16s and 18s, you become the mother of the bride.
When did you last cry?
About a week ago — I got some sad news.
What trait do you least like in others?
People who deliberately do you wrong in order to better themselves.
What trait do you least like in yourself?
Not having the ability to be a judge of character.
Do you pray?
Morning and night, and an occasional prayer during the day. I don’t go to Mass.
What would cheer up your day?
My grandchildren coming into the house. I love to hear the two younger girls say: “Nana, we’re here.”
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