Monty Python star Eric Idle has said he feels ‘grateful to be alive’ after surviving pancreatic cancer.
The comedian and writer, 79, revealed earlier this month that he had received a rare early diagnosis and was successfully treated for the illness.
Eric has now teamed up with Stand up to Cancer in a bid to increase awareness for cancer research and recently appeared on the U.S. version of The Masked Singer as part of the campaign.
Appearing on the series launch of the Graham Norton Show, he said: ‘I am definitely more grateful, grateful to be alive.
‘I am very fortunate and hopefully I can do a bit of good by raising money for research.’
The British icon went on to appear in The Masked Singer in America where he was disguised as a hedgehog and performed a cover of Love Me Do by The Beatles as part of the surreal TV guessing game.
He told show host Graham: ‘I thought I could raise awareness.
‘I asked Paul McCartney if I could sing Love Me Do. He said, ‘Yes, of course you can,’ then joked, ‘Do let me know me when it airs so I can be sure to miss it’.’
Earlier this month, the actor told TIME: ‘About three years ago I was incredibly lucky: I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
‘One of the most lethal forms of cancer, how on earth was that lucky? Well, because it was found incredibly early… before it had gone anywhere.’
Discussing his motivation to appear on The Masked Singer, he told Entertainment Weekly that he is on a mission to spread awareness and raise money for cancer charities.
He explained: ‘I felt this was a chance for me to come out to cancer publicly, and thank the people who saved my life, but more than that, to start raising money, so that other people who find themselves in my position can survive as well.
‘It was a big decision, you know, because you keep your personal life quiet, and I thought, this is a good thing: I can make them laugh, and now I can make them cry. There’s more money in crying. So that’s what I’m doing.
‘I’m gonna [raise awareness] in England, I’m gonna do it in America, and I’m gonna do it in Australia, I’m gonna just be the person who says, I’ll sing, [Monty Python’s] Always Look on the Bright Side of Life and give us some money.’
It was because of a friend that Eric received his diagnosis, revealing that while staying in the United States with his pal he had been urged to undergo a variety of tests to help his friend – a doctor – in his studies into preventative medicine.
He was told the diagnosis by his friend, who enlightened him that there was a good chance of removing the cancer due to the rare early diagnosis.
While emboldened with positive news surrounding his diagnosis, Eric recalled that his wife Tania, whom he’s been married to for 41 years, went out into the garden and cried when he told her.
He revealed: ‘I tell her early on that she is in no way British and that tears, and even other expressions of emotion, are quite acceptable. She can weep. She can come for a hug. Anytime, night or day.’
Next came the task of telling their children, Carey, 49, and Lily, 32.
Eric recalled: ‘My son is brave and very encouraging. He immediately offers to fly in from Australia… [Lily] has been avoiding me as if some instinct is warning her.’
The Grammy-nominated artist added that he chose not to tell friends about his diagnosis until he received the all-clear in order to spare them from worry.
Explaining how The Masked Singer changed his life, he told Entertainment Tonight: ‘The whole thing was very Zen. I really liked it. It changed my life to be honest. I had pancreatic cancer, and I have been very fortunate and lucky to survive.
‘It was caught early, I had a big operation at Cedars and they saved my life, and I hadn’t told anybody.’
After having his surgery, the comic ‘plucked up the courage to ask [his] doctor how long [he] had’ and was stunned by the response.
He recalled: ‘He said, ‘Oh at least 10 years. You’re very fit, you’re healthy, the cancer’s all gone’. And I hadn’t really counted on that.
‘So I thought, ‘Here’s my chance to do something good’. I have to come out now with my cancer [battle], tell people I’ve survived, and share that experience.’
During his appearance on the Fox show, his clues were that he had been naked in Playboy. He also said that he was part of one of the most famous groups of all time and had a cult following.
Hedgehog had performed the Beatles song Love Me Do accompanied by a college marching band. Confetti rained down on him when he finished.
‘Let me tell you Hedgehog, I dug it,’ judge Robin Thicke said.
After Hedgehog shared that he won a Tony and Grammy, judge Ken Jeong thought it might be Ringo Starr or Elton John.
Jenny McCarthy thought it might be John Cleese or Michael Palin while Nicole Scherzinger believed it could be actor Bill Nighy from Love Actually.
Yet Robin said he was a huge Monty Python fan and guessed correctly that it was Eric.
Later, Eric revealed that he wanted to sing that Beatles song because it was the first song Paul McCartney wrote.
‘So I wrote to him and asked him if I could do it,’ Eric said. ‘I have a letter back saying ”Yes, you can do the song, but would you please tell what show it is so I can make sure to avoid it”.’
Eric then performed his iconic song Always Look On The Bright Side of Life from the film The Life of Brian.
‘It was a little hot in there and actually this is John Cleese’s real body,’ Eric said of his costume.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal forms of the disease, and around 95 per cent of people who contract it die from it.
Joan Crawford, Patrick Swayze and Luciano Pavarotti all died of pancreatic cancer.
It is the sixth most common cause of cancer death in the UK – around 10,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year in the UK, alongside about 55,000 in the US.
It is caused by the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the pancreas – a large gland in the digestive system.
Pancreatic cancer typically does not show symptoms in the early stages, when it would be more manageable.
Sufferers tend to start developing the tell-tale signs – jaundice and abdominal pain – around stage 3 or 4, when it has likely already spread to other organs.
Eric has teamed up with Stand Up to Cancer to form the Bright Side fund, which was inspired by his experiences on the reality show.
He said: ‘We’re going to raise money specifically for research and early testing to help other people survive this thing.
‘And it was a bit of an epiphany for me and it was entirely because of The Masked Singer experience, and I’m very grateful to them for that.’
Writing on his Twitter, with a link to Stand Up To Cancer, he said: ‘I did the Masked Singer because I wanted to see if I could still do it after I had survived Pancreatic Cancer.
‘My life was saved by early screening and an op. Now I’m starting the Bright Side Fund to raise money to help save others.’