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I howled when I was told I had cancer ..but my garden gave me a sense of purpose; PROJECT HELPS DISEASE FIGHT.

Byline: RICHIE TAYLOR

CELEBRITY gardener Dermot O'Neill has revealed how his latest TV project helped him battle stomach cancer.

Dermot, who presents a regular slot on Radio One's Mooney show, had signed up for a six-part series to chronicle his ambitious restoration of a 19th-century walled garden in Clonderglass, Co Laois.

Dermot's Secret Garden, which will begin on RTE One at 7pm on March 3, was supposed to centre on the revamp of the plot.

But instead it became the moving story of one man's battle against cancer.

The documentary will show how the garden, which Dermot has spent almost a decade restoring, helped him to overcome his serious illness. He said: "I cried and howled following the diagnosis, but when I was at my lowest the garden gave me a sense of purpose.

"It stopped me from losing hope and reminded me that there was something to live for, still some joy in the world."

At the beginning of the series Dermot is seen complaining about a pain in his foot and he goes to see his GP. He is then sent to a specialist and is soon told he has an aggressive form of stomach cancer.

Dermot added: "They told me it was very treatable, which was good news, but it also meant going through chemotherapy and some other very ugly tests." Medical staff found lymphoma cells in the fluid around his brain.

Dermot said: "They had to put a little hole in my skull and administer chemotherapy separately into the cavity."

He had originally bought the walled garden, which had been abandoned for 50 years, in 2001, spending all he had on the plot and its adjoining derelict cottage - which he now hopes to move into soon.

As the TV series progresses, the gardener's health begins to improve.

Dermot reveals in the second episode: "The recent news is that the tumour is disappearing slowly, which is fantastic.

"People say I'm starting to look more like my old self again, but I'm taking things slowly. I'm getting to the stage now that I can work again."

Work on the cottage and the garden is still continuing.

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MOVING Dermot O'Neill tells of his fight against cancer HOPEFUL Gardening has given Dermot a sense of purpose
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 21, 2011
Words:378
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