Actor Ben Richards has opened up about his journey through bowel cancer.
Writing in an article for The Mirror, Ben, who is known for his roles in Footballers Wives, Hollyoaks and The Bill, revealed that he had been travelling in India when he first saw signs of the illness, and initially blamed them on his diet.
‘It was January 2012 and two months earlier, I’d been filming a TV series out in India when I started to notice a few changes in my bowel movements,’ he explained. ‘I was passing a small amount of blood when I went to the toilet – a clear symptom of bowel cancer.’
‘Yet being a typical bloke, I self-diagnosed. I was convinced it was due to the spicy food I’d been eating in India. Besides, I was pretty healthy. I was in good shape and looked after myself.’
It wasn’t until his partner at the time, now ex-wife Helen, persuaded him to go for a check-up that he found out the severity of the symptoms.
‘As soon as the doctor said the words, “You have cancer”, his phone happened to ring. I insisted he took the call so I had a few seconds to process what he had just told me,’ Ben added.
‘My mind was a mess. When you hear the word cancer, you instantly think, “Well that’s it, I’m going to die,” so straight away I wanted to know what my chances were. Mine were pretty good, but there’s always a chance it can spread to your lymph nodes and if that happens, it’s not good at all.’
After undergoing chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery, Ben is now in remission, and has since become a patron of awareness charity Bowel Cancer UK. He also welcomed daughter Freja-Amelie with new partner, The Wright Stuff’s Kirsty Duffy, in 2015.
‘When my next doctor’s appointment came around, I knew in myself I felt right. I felt significantly healthier. I was so lucky to be told, almost a year to the day since my diagnosis, that I had the all clear,’ he said.
Ben says that while his life is now very different, he feels that his diagnosis was a ‘blessing’ in disguise.
‘I have IBS now, which is common after chemo, so I follow a different diet. No wheat, gluten or dairy. The main difference in my life after cancer is I don’t drink beer any more! Although I often dream about a cold pint. God, do I miss beer so much.
‘Now I’m performing in [West End show] The Bodyguard and I love it. The blessing of having cancer is the way you see life afterwards.
‘I appreciate my chances, have an amazing partner in Kirsty Duffy and an amazing daughter in Freja. I’m blessed but I know that now. I live life to the fullest for those who didn’t make it. Long may that continue.’