A Place in the Sun’s Jonnie Irwin heartbroken sons will grow up not knowing their dad after his terminal diagnosis
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A Place In The Sun presenter Jonnie Irwin has said it 'breaks [his] heart' that his sons will not grow up knowing their dad as he revealed a terminal cancer diagnosis.
He had been filming episodes for the Channel 4 show in August 2020 when his vision went blurry while driving, and within a week of flying home he was given just six months to live.
"I had to go home and tell my wife, who was looking after our babies, that she was on her own pretty much," Irwin told Hello. "That was devastating. All I could do was apologise to her. I felt so responsible."
Irwin's prognosis has been prolonged with the help of medication and chemotherapy, and he now tries to stay positive with the attitude that he is 'living with cancer, not dying from it'.
After getting into the habit of saying 'don't plan ahead because I might not be well enough', Irwin is now determined to make the most of his time with his sons, three-year-old Rex and two-year-old twins Rafa and Cormac.
He hasn't told his children the details of his diagnosis yet, but he sets himself 'little markers' of things he hopes to be around for in the future, explaining: "I want to make memories and capture these moments with my family because the reality is, my boys are going to grow up not knowing their dad and that breaks my heart."
Irwin shares his children with his wife, Jessica, who he married in 2016. He decided to open up about his diagnosis now because he began to feel like he was 'carrying a dirty secret'.
"I hope that by shaking that monkey off and talking to Hello!, I might inspire people who are living with life-limiting prospects to make the most of every day; to help them see that you can live a positive life, even though you are dying," he explained.
Irwin added that his eldest child, Rex, 'doesn't need to know' about his cancer yet, explaining: "We make fun of my hair - he calls it my 'spiky head' - but as far as he's concerned, his dad is normal and why would I shatter that innocence?"
He added: "One day, this is going to catch up with me. But I'm doing everything I can to hold that day off for as long as possible. I owe that to Jess and our boys. Some people in my position have bucket lists, but I just want us to do as much as we can as a family."
Irwin also used the opportunity to stress the importance of taking out life insurance, which he did himself when his twins were born.
"That has helped so much and when I leave this planet, I'll do so knowing Jess and the boys are in a house that is fully paid off and there's a bit of money in the bank for them to live off," he said.
Irwin became a presenter on A Place in the Sun in 2004, and since 2010 has also worked on Escape to the Country.