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James Valentine was at a friend’s birthday party in December last year when the first signs suddenly appeared that something was seriously wrong with the ABC radio star.

‘My friend Tom has been celebrating his 40th birthday every few years for quite a while now and it’s a good party,’ Valentine recalled. 

‘But, as usual, the bar was free and there was no food.’

Relief arrived with three containers of takeaway containers of Thai food delivered to the pub party venue about 9.30pm and Valentine gobbled down the massaman beef ‘like a dog woofing up Pal’.

What happened next led the 62-year-old to a doctor’s surgery and a diagnosis of oesophageal cancer.

James Valentine, who has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer,  was at a friend's birthday party in December last year when the first signs appeared that something was seriously wrong with the ABC radio star

James Valentine, who has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer,  was at a friend’s birthday party in December last year when the first signs appeared that something was seriously wrong with the ABC radio star

A few minutes after eating the takeaway food Valentine began choking and retching. His wife Joanne said: ‘That’s no good’.

As Valentine clung to a pole on the street outside the hotel, Joanne insisted he visit her sister’s endoscopy clinic for a gastroscopy.  

After the procedure a gastroenterologist confirmed Valentine was not suffering from some sort of ‘old man reflux kind of condition’.

‘It’s bad,’ the doctor said. 

‘You’ve got a 4cm tumour where your oesophagus meets your stomach.’ 

Life for the presenter of ABC Radio Sydney’s afternoons show changed in an instant.

Valentine revealed details of his cancer diagnosis on Thursday in a first-person piece penned for the national broadcaster’s website.   

Early in that article, addressed directly to his listeners, the one-time saxophonist for Melbourne band Models said, ‘Right now, I’m completely fine’.

In January, Valentine started five weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. He will soon undergo surgery to have his oesophagus removed.

Valentine revealed details of his cancer diagnosis on Thursday in a first-person piece penned for the national broadcaster's website. He is pictured with actor Leah McLeod

Valentine revealed details of his cancer diagnosis on Thursday in a first-person piece penned for the national broadcaster’s website. He is pictured with actor Leah McLeod

‘I got chemo and radiation straight off, but only a mild dose designed to shrink the tumour and clean out the body before surgery,’ he wrote.

‘I got tired from the radiation, the chemo made me feel like my whole body had been sluiced through with liquid aluminium foil but I could go to work, do the radio, and I even did a gig or two playing saxophone.’

The surgery to take out Valentine’s cancerous oesophagus will be performed in a few weeks, when his stomach will be stretched and attached to his throat to replace the digestive organ. 

‘After that, I’m very likely to feel like absolute crap for quite some time,’ he wrote. ‘It is likely I will recover, although that may take some months.

‘I will never woof down massaman beef again and I think we’re all glad about that.’ 

An ABC spokesman said their had been an outpouring of care and concern for Valentine since Thursday with listeners offering messages of support. 

Valentine presented the ABC’ Sydney afternoon program for two decades before holding the breakfast slot for two years until late 2023 when it was announced he would return to his old shift. 

There was a clue Valentine was unwell on his Facebook page in February when a fan posted ‘Please stop having Mondayitis, we love hearing from you 5 days a week on (Radio Sydney).’ 

ABC management has been aware of Valentine’s diagnosis since December but the announcer chose not to tell his listeners until this week.  

‘I thought about telling the ABC Radio Sydney audience before this time but I decided I’d only just come back to afternoons,’ he wrote.

‘It’s generally a jolly show, so let’s have a good time there for a few months rather than shade that whole time with my disease.’

Valentine said he expected to be off-air for two or three months, he wrote in his piece.

‘I’m going to make sure I’m fully recovered and my stomach is going to stay attached to me neck before I attempt broadcasting again.’ 

Nine key symptoms of oesophageal cancer you need to watch out for  

Oesophageal cancer is slow-growing and usually detected in advanced stages, as there may not be any symptoms in the early stages. Symptoms of oesophageal cancer may include: 

  • difficult or painful swallowing 
  • new heartburn 
  • reflux that doesn’t go away
  •  vomit that has blood in it 
  • black or bloody stools 
  • unexplained fatigue 
  • feeling of choking when swallowing 
  • discomfort in the upper abdomen particularly when eating 
  • unexplained weight loss. 

 Source: cancer.org.au

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This post first appeared on Daily mail

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