Declan is urging Derry men to open up about health matters

Declan Branagan (centre) pictured with some of the Republic of Ireland squad. From left, Jonathan Walters, Shane Long, Declan Branagan, Shay Given and Robbie Brady.
Declan Branagan (centre) pictured with some of the Republic of Ireland squad. From left, Jonathan Walters, Shane Long, Declan Branagan, Shay Given and Robbie Brady.

Although Declan Branagan is Dublin born and bred, Derry will always have a special place in his heart.

Declan is more than familiar with the streets of Derry. Thirty years ago he performed with the show bands in many of Derry’s dance halls. Declan is also Phil Coulter’s brother-in-law.

On first impressions, Declan is uber confident, upbeat and has a clear idea of where he is and where he wants to go in life.

However, behind this positive visage is a deeply moving story of how one man came face to face with his own mortality.

Declan was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year.

“The reason I am telling my story is because I want other men out there to know that they should not be embarrassed or afraid to go and see a doctor,” he explained.

“If I had not visited a doctor, I might not be here today.”

Declan runs a successful IT company, and a lot of his work means he must travel all over the world.

“I’ve always been a person who looks after their health, and every year since I turned 50, I visit the doctor for a check-up.

“I was out working in South Africa last year. My business was involved with helping more and more black lawyers develop their profession.

“I visited a doctor when I was out there and the doctor thought there was something not right with the Prostate-Specific Antigen test.

“The doctor there told me I should go and have it checked out as soon as I got back to Ireland.

“When I got back to Ireland, I underwent a few tests and then met with oncologist, Dr. Brian O’Neill at Beamount Hospital.

“After carrying out tests, Dr. O’Neill was able to tell me that there was something wrong with the right hand side of my prostate.”

Declan described visiting Beamount Hospital and the atmosphere of uncertainty surrounding his health as “dark days” and something he experienced difficulty with coming to terms with.

“Dr. O’Neill ordered for a biopsy. It was around Christmas time because I remember sitting on December 18, which was our staff Christmas party, and contemplating my mortality. Would I still be alive in the New Year? What would happen to me? There were very dark days.”

The biopsy results came back and Declan then heard the words he was dreading the most – he had cancer.

Declan then underwent surgery to have his prostate removed and was in and out of the hospital in two and a half days.

“I think I’ve had one day off sick from work in the last 25 years,” he continued.

“I am a workaholic. I love what I do and I really enjoy meeting people so you can imagine how I felt after the operation. I was off my feet for a couple of months.”

Since the operation in March, Declan has had numerous tests done – the most recent being less than two weeks ago.

It’s a case of so far so good for Declan, but in January he will commence a bout of radiotherapy to reduce the risk of his cancer having spread to other parts of his body.

“It’s a bloody awful disease, so that’s why I have agreed to go for the radiotherapy.

“It’ll be very tough, but if it reduces the risk of cancer leaking to other parts of my body then it’ll be a good thing,” he said.

“I want men out there to know that there is help and support available.

“There is life after cancer and the most important thing men out there should know about prostate cancer is that time is the key.

“If caught early, then the chances of survival are good.

“I thoroughly enjoy male company. I love the craic and the slagging, but one thing we are not good at at all is talking about our health.

“I want men out there to start talking about their health – if it helps one man to get tested and save his life, then it will have been a good thing.”

Declan has the remarkable ability to extract positivist from something as deeply concerning as cancer.

Since his diagnosis and treatment, he started to see life through new eyes.

“I’ve taken a major step back from my business. I have employed an office manager and I delegate much more.

“I now try to spend as much time as possible with my four children and my wife Sibéal.

“In fact, Sibéal and I are going to South Africa for a holiday in the New Year.

“I am not out of the woods yet but hopefully I can continue to keep moving in the right direction.”

Declan Branagan lives with his wife Sibéal in Swords outside Dublin, and owns eXpd8 IT Services.