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Messages of support flood in from around the world for ‘Lord of the Dance’ Michael Flatley

‘People in the world of dance from as far away as Australia and America have been passing on their love and support for Michael’

Michael Flatley. PIC: Brian Lawless/PA Wire© PA

Michael and his wife Niamh O'Brien© PA

Marie Duffy with Michael Flatley in happier times

2/5/14 Michael Flatley and wife Niamh arriving at Shanahan's on the Green for Niamh's 40th birthday party. Picture:Arthur Carron

Michael Flatley Sardi's Caricature Unveiling NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 11, 2015 Michael Flatley attends the unveiling of the Michael Flatley caricature at Sardi's on December 11, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/WireImage)© ?????_/O?

Eddie RowleySunday World

Michael Flatley is taking on his biggest challenge in life with the same determination and positivity that saw him become a global superstar of dance.

The Lord of the Dance creator this week received the shock diagnosis that he has an aggressive cancer, and he immediately underwent surgery in London.

A former Chicago Golden Gloves boxing champion, Flatley, who has a strong religious faith, yesterday told the Sunday Worldthat he is focusing on winning his cancer battle.

“I’ll fight my way through this with God by my side,” Michael told me. “God is with me.”

Flatley was treated for malignant melanoma in 2003 after a TV viewer in America spotted the early signs of skin cancer on his face. He said the frightening experience gave him an even greater zest for life.

Michael and his wife Niamh O'Brien© PA

He broke the news of his latest cancer diagnosis through social media on Wednesday, saying that it was “aggressive”, that he’d undergone surgery and was in the care of “an excellent team of doctors.”

The statement on Facebook added: “We ask only for your prayers and well wishes.”

Michael shot to fame when he exploded on to the stage at the 1996 Eurovision Song Contest, performing the lead role in Riverdance with Jean Butler.

The sensational dancer, whose late parents, Michael Snr and Eileen, came from Sligo and Carlow respectively and emigrated to Chicago where he was born and reared, went on to become a multi-millionaire with his own smash-hit show, Lord of the Dance.

The showbiz icon, who lives in a stunning mansion at Castlehyde estate outside Fermoy, Co. Cork, with his wife Niamh and son, Michael Jnr, was due to attend a limited run of Lord of the Dance at Dublin’s Bord Gais Energy Theatre, which opens on February 23.

Yesterday, Marie Duffy, the Irish woman Flatley calls his “twin sister”, said that she is still reeling over this week’s revelation that he has an aggressive cancer.

Marie, who lives in England but is originally from Crumlin in Dublin and was dance director and associate choreographer of Lord of the Dance for 20 years, also told how messages of support for Michael have been flooding in from all over the globe.

“People in the world of dance from as far away as Australia and America have been passing on their love and support for Michael. He is much-loved and this has been a big shock for everyone. It was a great shock for me when Michael told me the news on Tuesday,” Marie told the Sunday World.

“But the one thing we all know is that Michael doesn’t do negativity. He’s one of the most positive people I know. When the chips are down he comes out fighting. Michael has overcome many challenges in life, he’s an unstoppable force of nature and he has a great mental attitude that will help him bounce back from this.”

Maire, who is the author of a new book called The Essential Guide To Irish Dance and has worked on TV shows such as Britain’s Got Talent and Strictly Come Dancing, has known Flatley since he was a teenager when she was running Irish dancing workshops in America in the early 1970s and he was competing in competitions.

Years later, Marie got a call from Flatley asking her to join him in launching a new stage show that would become Lord of the Dance.

“I have known Marie as a ‘sister’ for more than 20 years and known of her reputation for even longer,” Michael said some years ago. “It was that reputation as a driven and motivated teacher, choreographer and promoter of Irish dance that made Marie Duffy the only person I could choose to help realise my vision for Lord of the Dance.”

Marie Duffy with Michael Flatley in happier times

When Marie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 while preparing for a major tour with Lord of the Dance, she says that Flatley was a huge support to her during that difficult time.

“Michael urged me to take as much time as I needed to recover and to get back to full health,” she says.

However, Marie insisted on doing the Lord of the Dance tour around Europe, taking breaks to return to England for her chemotherapy treatment.

“There would be many hardships involved, but I never lost my passion for the show and I believe that this was ultimately very beneficial to my health,” she says.

“Michael is the same. He’ll keep busy with his work and he’ll get through this difficult time in his life.”

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