How I faced my cancer diagnosis...

The former Northern Ireland Editor at RTE, Tommie Gorman, features in an insightful documentary, Ireland, Cancer and Me, this week
How I faced my cancer diagnosis...

LUCKY TO BE ALIVE: Tommie Gorman receiving treatment in Sweden 20 years ago for cancer

AFTER a career spanning 41 years at RTÉ News, Tommie Gorman signed off for the final time in March.

During his many years as the station’s Northern Ireland Editor, he carried out the difficult job of reporting on an often divided society with doggedness and fairness. However, Tommie’s final work with RTÉ might prove to be just as great a legacy.

In an insightful documentary Ireland, Cancer And Me, on RTÉ1 on Tuesday, May 4th, at 10.15pm, the Sligo man provides a personal account of living with a cancer condition.

In 1994, when Gorman was 37 and RTÉ’s Brussels-based Europe Correspondent, he was diagnosed with cancer: a primary tumour in his small bowel, a secondary site and multiple tumours on his liver.

It is a rare form of the disease — Neuro-endocrine tumours (NETS) — wjth Apple founder Steve Jobs and singer Aretha Franklin among those diagnosed.

In the early days of his diagnosis, Tommie found that under EU law, he was entitled to treatment in another EU state if it was cost effective and useful. In 1998, he became the first Irish citizen to access treatment at a Swedish Centre of Excellence, availing of an EU directive to qualify.

He made a documentary for RTÉ at the time, Europe, Cancer And Me, which charted his journey and helped open the door for hundreds of Irish patients to follow in his footsteps to get vital treatments in other EU countries.

Tommie still lives with cancer and receives treatment. However, a lot has changed since the first documentary and he no longer has to travel to Sweden for treatment.

Explaining the new documentary, he says: “It fills in the gaps in what has happened to me since. Maybe I can sign off my RTÉ life with a programme that might bring hope.”

Tommie says the Swedish treatment is the reason he is alive today, and adds: “But very significant progress has been made in Ireland’s health service, on so many levels since. The documentary seeks to describe and acknowledge those advances.”

Ireland, Cancer And Me shows how a Centre for Excellence, catering for patients with NETS, was set up at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin, with links to other centres in Cork and Galway.

“Patient by patient, step by step, we are building an Irish version of the Swedish model. It lifts the spirits to see how the service has improved in recent years,” says Tommie, who also meets other people living with the condition and family members who set up their own NETS support group.

In the final scenes of the programme, Tommie receives an update on his own medical condition. He says: “It is sobering. It brings home to me how fortunate I am to be alive.”

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