Jonnie Irwin opened up to Susanna Reid and Ben Shephard on Thursday in his first TV interview since revealing his terminal cancer diagnosis. The A Place in the Sun star shared a memory of a fan slamming him for being “too skinny” at one of the Channel 4’s live exhibitions.
Ben asked the presenter why he kept his diagnosis secret at first to which Jonnie explained he was “afraid” of what has subsequently happened.
He said: “I wanted to keep it a secret because professionally, I didn’t want to lose work.
“But also socially and emotionally, people treat you differently and people start making decisions for you.”
Jonnie explained he feared friends would no longer invite him to events because of his diagnosis.
“If I withheld that information, I found I could live a normal life right up until a year ago,” he said.
Ben interjected: “And then it became untenable and you had to share the news?”
Jonnie explained: “Certain busy bodies on social media were like, ‘You don’t look well’ ‘You look ill’ ‘You should see the doctor.’
“I had someone come up to me after A Place in the Sun live exhibitions and say, ‘My wife says you’re too skinny,’ and I was like, ‘You’re not, are you?’
“He couldn’t believe I was biting back but what do people expect to gain from it?”
Jonnie revealed his hope that with going public about his cancer he can help to educate the public.
“I’m going public to first of all empower people in my position to say, ‘Look I’ve got cancer,’ but me going public is more to educate those without cancer,” he said.
“Treat us normally, treat us with respect. We’re in a lot of ways people with disabilities but we want the same respect any human being deserves.
“If we’re working, let us work if we’re up to it. Don’t make decisions for us treat us normally because that’s why we’re keeping it secret.
“The very talented actress Helen McCrory, Polly in Peaky Blinders, she felt she had to keep it secret for all of her life and it shouldn’t be that way.
“We should be able to talk about our feelings and in doing so benefit from so much support.”
Jonnie was dropped from A Place in the Sun following his diagnosis.
A statement from production company Freeform Productions and Channel 4 read: “Jonnie has been a hugely important part of the A Place in The Sun family for over 18 years and all of us were deeply saddened by his diagnosis.
“Much loved by everyone on the production, no stone was left unturned in trying to enable Jonnie to continue his international filming with us during Covid but the production company were unable to secure adequate insurance cover for him.
“Whilst we were unable to continue to film abroad with him, we’re delighted that he was able to remain as part of our team in the UK for exhibitions.
“We of course understand how frustrating this must be for him at this incredibly difficult time.”
Good Morning Britain airs on ITV on weekdays at 6am.