Rhod Gilbert: A Pain in the Neck for SU2C

Rhod Gilbert (Photo: u)
Rhod Gilbert (Photo: u)

They say laughter is the best medicine.

And on that basis, if anyone is emotionally equipped to deal with a serious medical condition, it could be popular Welsh comedian Rhod Gilbert.

Ever since he was diagnosed with stage four head and neck cancer caused by a virus known as HPV in July 2022, Rhod has bravely tried to keep a smile on his and his fans’ faces, as well as using his celebrity profile to raise awareness of the disease.

Campaigning for cancer charities is nothing new for the Carmarthen comic, who turned 55 a fortnight ago.

In fact, he even saw the irony in and funny side of his life-changing diagnosis, saying: “I’ve led five fundraising treks all over the world, I do stand-up comedy nights to raise money, I hosted quizzes… it’s been a big part of my life for the last 10 years, so imagine my surprise when I was diagnosed with cancer.

“Which p***ed me off no end, because I thought I’d have life-long immunity! Apparently not.”

Rhod, who was nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award in 2008 and has appeared numerous TV and radio panel shows, has been treated at the Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff, where he had been a fundraising patron for a decade before.

“Apparently you’re just as likely to get cancer even if you spend your time fundraising for a cancer hospital,” he added.

“Anyway, I did get it, and it turns out it can come for anybody.

“The other irony is that I was in Cuba on a trek, fundraising for this cancer centre when the first lump popped up in my neck. I left as a patron and came back as a patient.”

“I had to have chemotherapy in a room with pictures of me on the way in! Grinning down at myself like, ‘Come on, you can do it!’, which was a bit odd.”

This intimate, inspiring and, at times, humorous documentary shown as part of the Stand Up to Cancer season, follows Rhod through 18 months of hope and hell as he confronts his illness.

It powerfully captures the raw reality of living with a little-known cancer, shedding light on the challenges and raising awareness of the condition.

Rhod shares his daunting journey from diagnosis, through initial surgery, to chemotherapy and radiotherapy with remarkable openness.

Through intimate video diaries, we accompany him on all the ups and downs, share in the triumphant moment when he rings the end-of-treatment bell, and then the agonising wait to find out if his treatment has worked as he tries to pull his life back together.

On top of everything he’s dealing with, the Rhod Gilbert’s Work Experience star and former The Apprentice: You’re Fired! host undertakes a personal challenge, not only to raise awareness of his condition and how it can be prevented in the future, but also to raise funds for the hospital that played a pivotal role in saving his life.

As this week’s programmes in aid of SU2C show, absolutely no one is immune from this cruel disease.

But fair play to Rhod, he’s not admitting defeat.

Two weeks ago he announced that he has received his first clear cancer scan after undergoing treatment, telling the Radio Times it was “the best day of my life”.

And as well as getting better himself, he also has his heart set on helping others, while continuing to make people laugh.