Eric Idle nicknamed cancer 'Kenny'

·3-min read
Eric Idle gave his cancer a nickname credit:Bang Showbiz
Eric Idle gave his cancer a nickname credit:Bang Showbiz

Eric Idle nicknamed his cancer "Kenny".

The Monty Python star recently revealed he had successfully battled pancreatic three years ago, but he's admitted he and his wife Tania didn't want to "freak people out" by using the name of the disease, so opted to refer to it by something "far less threatening".

He recalled: "I break the news to my wife Tania, and even though she will reveal later that she would go into the garden with the dogs and cry, I tell her early on that she is in no way British and that tears, and even other expressions of emotion, are quite acceptable. She can weep. She can come for a hug. Anytime, night or day. She is steadfast, strong, and determined to see me up on my feet again.

"We immediately decide that pancreatic cancer is such a scary term and freaks people out so much that we will call my diagnosis Kenny. Kenny is far less threatening. Kenny is manageable. Kenny is something we can talk about publicly. The next day I have an appointment at The Kenny Center. In the Kennyology parking lot, as the valet takes away my car, I say to Tania: 'This is the Valet of the Chateau of Death.'

"There is still no cure for the common comedian."

The 79-year-old comic and his wife told their children, Carey and Lily, about his diagnosis, but decided to "spare" telling most of their friends.

Eric wrote in an essay for TIME magazine: "Our friends we mostly decide to spare. Better to break the news when it is over. One way or another.

"But I make my lawyer friend Tom Hoberman laugh when I say that at least it’s better than boarding school. He is a Kenny survivor of both lung and prostate, so I’m lucky to even have him still in my life.

"And at dinner on the eve of the surgery, I am tempted to tell my old friend Jim Beach that I am heading into hospital for a major op, but his film 'Bohemian Rhapsody' has just picked up four Oscars at the Academy Awards. 'Oh, four Oscars, eh? I got awarded Pancreatic Cancer, but they’re still cutting it…'

"No, it seems utterly tasteless to rain on his parade. And we are thrilled for him."

Eric's cancer was discovered after his friend, Dr. David Kipper, took him for routine tests, and because it was caught so early, medics had no idea what his prognosis would be.

Recalled his first meeting with specialists, he said: "The Kenny doctor is late. Caroline, his medical assistant, goes through the results. They are as predicted. A cancerous tumor in the middle of the pancreas. Tania asks her how long I have. Caroline says, 'I honestly can’t tell you, we’ve never had someone at such an early stage as this. It’s so early that there are no statistics on it.'

"'Not only is this good news, Eric,' says Kipper, 'but the doctors are going to love this. They rarely get a chance to cure these things, and your diagnosis is so early we have a very good chance of getting it all out'...

"Kipper said that if we had delayed by only two weeks, I would not even have seen the surgeon."