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Christy Dignam reveals 'lucky' fall led to discovery cancer treatment wasn't working

"I’m extremely lucky – If this chemo hadn’t worked, I was f**ked"

Christy is relieved his new treatment is working well.

Eddie Rowley

Irish rock legend Christy Dignam has revealed how an accidental fall while walking his new dog led to a terrifying discovery about his cancer treatment.

The iconic Aslan singer and songwriter, who has a rare form of cancer called amyloidosis, developed a lung infection after cracking his ribs, but blood tests revealed a more sinister issue – his chemo treatment wasn’t working.

As he this weekend releases a new single called High, Christy (61) tells the Sunday World: “I was on this particular chemo in the last year…it was like a maintenance chemo. There are four chemos that they can use on the condition I have.

“The first two did work on me, but then your cells start recognising the chemo and start finding ways around it. So I was on the third one.

“When I had a fall and cracked my ribs, I got an infection in my lung. Then I went in to do my chemo and I told them I had an infection, so they did my bloods…and that’s when they realised the chemo wasn’t working.

“I had spent a year on this chemo not realising that it wasn’t working. I was wondering why I’d been feeling so bad for the last year. I was terrified.”

Christy with his wife Kathryn.

Christy, who is one of our national treasures, was then treated with the fourth chemo.

“They started the new treatment and that is really working well, so I’m extremely lucky,” he tells me. “If this chemo hadn’t worked, I was f**ked.”

Ironically, it was the death of his beloved dog, Jack, last summer that sparked the series of events.

Christy was left distraught when the Yorkshire Terrier died. “I was devastated,” he says. “I’d had Jack for 12 years and he was like my wing man. He came absolutely everywhere with me. He was on Living With Lucy, he was in the magazines…anytime I did photo sessions he was beside me.

“When I let him out early one morning to do his business he was panting out the back. I could see there was something seriously wrong with him. The vet said, ‘Bring him straight down to me.’

“He said there was fluid on his lungs, so he put him on a drip and told me to go home. I live 10 minutes away and when I got to my door the phone rang. It was the vet saying, ‘You’d better come straight back.’

“The dog was vomiting up blood. He had burst a valve in his heart. When I went back the doctor said, ‘If you want to say goodbye to him now...’ I was in shock, so I went in and he put him down…and I spent 15 minutes in the vet’s just sobbing.

“When I came home to Kathryn [his wife] I said, ‘That’s it, I will never get another dog because that [the loss] is too f**kin’ painful.

“But the house was then like a morgue, so I drove down to Limerick and I got another dog. It took the sting out of the whole thing. Now I have this new dog, Holly, another Yorkshire Terrier. She’s not Jack, but she’s starting to win me over.”

Christy Dignam with his Aslan bandmates.

Christy had a traumatic year in 2020 as his father, Christy Snr, died from Covid-19 in a nursing home, with his family unable to hug him or properly mourn his passing due to the restrictions surrounding the pandemic.

But the veteran entertainer says that working on a new solo album — aptly titled The Man Who Stayed Alive — helped him get through the dark days.

“It totally lifted my spirits and lifted me out of that darkness, and it’s the best thing I’ve done in years,” says Christy, who teamed up with Irish songwriter, Don Mescall, to create the album that reflects his own life story in songs and music and is due out this autumn.

“Don did most of the writing,” he says. “He read my autobiography and we talked about my life, and he really got into my head. When he was writing the songs, he was writing them from my perspective. It’s amazing the way he did it.”

Meanwhile, Christy has also got a boost from doing some recent live gigs, including the INEC in Killarney two weeks ago. “You have no idea what it feels like just to get back in front of an audience, it was amazing,” he says.

“We’ve done a few streams over the last 18 months and they are so hard to do.

Christy was devastated when his dog Jack died.

“The first one we did was in the INEC, and when I looked back at it I was disgusted with my performance because it was just dead. It’s because there is no audience there and I feed off that.

“So, in all the streams subsequent to that one, I made an extra effort, because I didn’t want it to look like that again.

“Now to have an actual audience, even though it’s small, is a thousand times better than doing the streaming.”

  • Christy Dignam’s new single, High, is out now. His solo album, The Man Who Stayed Alive, will be released this autumn.

A stellar moment for Adam

Aslan frontman Christy spoke fondly of Late Late Toy Show star Adam King, who was in the audience at the band’s Killarney concert two weeks ago.

“We didn’t know that Adam was there, but someone handed me a piece of paper and for a moment I thought it said there was an astronaut in the audience,” Christy tells the Sunday World.

Adam King

“I said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, there’s an astronaut, Adam King, in the audience… he’s down the back there.’

“Then the father lifts the kid up and I realised who it was. I didn’t recognise the name in that moment, so that was hilarious.

“I’ll tell you one thing, I don’t know what it is about him, but there’s a charisma comes off him. He’s a gorgeous little kid.

“I fell in love with him that night seeing him on the Toy Show, but having seen him now in person… there’s an energy comes off him, a goodness, and his eyes are sparkling.

“There’s just something about him. It’s not his disability, there’s something extra he has. And you could see the feelgood factor in the venue that night. He got a standing ovation. All the audience turned around to look at him and the clapping went on for about five minutes. And you understand why, because he’s just gorgeous.”

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