Stormont minister Edwin Poots has revealed he is waiting for an operation after being diagnosed with kidney cancer.
He said a tumour on his kidney was discovered by chance when he underwent surgery on a burst appendix before Christmas.
A scan taken as part of his treatment detected the growth on his kidney.
The 55-year-old Lagan Valley representative said surgery to remove the kidney had been delayed due to the disruption to non-Covid services caused by the pandemic.
Mr Poots has vowed to continue his ministerial work as he awaits the procedure. He said his prognosis was good.
“I wouldn’t have known about the cancer growth had it not been for the appendix,” he told the News Letter.
“I’m hugely grateful that I have felt the hand of God upon my life.
“The fact that you have cancer and that the health service isn’t available to you to carry out the surgery for you, that is a significant struggle.”
Mr Poots said he was told about the discovery as he recovered from appendix surgery, adding he did not have symptoms and was otherwise feeling well.
“The surgeon told me the operation had gone well, but that when they were looking at my scan they noticed there was a growth over part of my right kidney and they regarded it as suspicious,” he said.
“On the back of that I have been visiting hospital getting tests and so forth done and I need to have my right kidney removed.
“All the signs would be that it is a cancerous tumour and that it’s growing on my kidney. They haven’t tested it but all the knowledge that the specialists would have would indicate that it is cancerous.
“Their desire is to remove it, and they are of the opinion that the removal of the kidney will cure it.
“I should not require chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
“Mentally, I am comfortable about the circumstances I find myself in, my prognosis is good and I believe I will come out the other side OK.”
Stormont First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster was among political colleagues expressing support for Mr Poots.
“It is reassuring to see the lovely comments from across the political spectrum for Edwin,” she tweeted.
“Cancer is indiscriminate & cruel. Has touched so many. I talked to Edwin after he received this diagnosis. He has great determination & is sustained by a loving wife, family & great faith.”
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill tweeted on Tuesday night: “Thinking of Edwin Poots and his family tonight as he has made public that he is going through a cancer journey. A tough time for any family. Every best wish @edwinpootsmla.”