Veteran BBC Radio 1 DJ ‘Diddy’ David Hamilton has cancer

Veteran radio DJ David Hamilton has been diagnosed with a rare cancer that makes him look like he’s tanned, the MailOnline can reveal.

The legendary BBC The radio host was left confused last year when friends and family said he had a glow about him and looked healthier than ever.

Unbeknownst to him and those around him, the opposite was true.

‘Diddy’, famous for his appearances on Radio 1 and 2 in his heyday, as well as Top of the Pops, was suffering from a deceptive and unusual cancer.

The 83-year-old said he was “surprised” by his diagnosis after suffering no other signs of illness.

It wasn’t until one day he started urinating blood and his doctor referred him to a specialist that he was diagnosed with polycythemia vera.

The rare disease causes the body to overproduce red blood cells, causing the skin to develop a “very rosy complexion.”

“Everyone who sees me says how great I look,” Hamilton told MailOnline.

“Too many red blood cells give you a very pink complexion, so it looks like you have a tan.”

Hamilton, who lives in Sussex with his wife Dreena, continues to host a lunchtime show on Boom Radio six times a week despite his diagnosis.

The former BBC Radio 1 presenter, from Sussex, was told he had rare polycythemia vera in November after going to his GP because he saw blood in his urine.  The cancer, which thickens the blood and causes reddening of the skin, gave the DJ a 'very rosy complexion' that made it look like he was tanned.

The former BBC Radio 1 presenter, from Sussex, was told he had rare polycythemia vera in November after going to his GP because he saw blood in his urine. The cancer, which thickens the blood and causes reddening of the skin, gave the DJ a ‘very rosy complexion’ that made it look like he was tanned.

Hamilton, who is the oldest person in the UK to host a daily breakfast radio show, began his television and radio career nearly 60 years ago and has also hosted shows on Magic and Capital Gold.

Hamilton, who is the oldest person in the UK to host a daily breakfast radio show, began his television and radio career nearly 60 years ago and has also hosted shows on Magic and Capital Gold.

WHAT IS POLYCYTHEMIA VERA?

Polycythemia vera (PV), also known as erythrocytosis, is a rare blood cancer that affects the bone marrow.

Patients’ red blood cell levels are too high, medically known as erythrocytosis, because their bone marrow makes too many out of control.

This makes the blood thicker and less able to travel through the blood vessels and organs. Many of the symptoms of polycythemia are caused by this slow blood flow.

Symptoms include headaches, tiredness, flushed skin, stomach pain, high blood pressure, and bleeding or clots, which can lead to strokes or heart problems.

More than nine out of 10 cases of PV are caused by changes in the JAK2 gene that makes a protein that controls how many blood cells are made.

In most cases, these genetic faults occur during a person’s lifetime.

Cancer is diagnosed by blood and bone marrow tests. Some patients also undergo X-rays and oxygen tests.

Treatments for PV aim to reduce the number of red blood cells in the body.

Patients may undergo a venesection, when about a pint of blood is taken to reduce red blood cell levels.

They may be prescribed “chemo drugs” that stop the growth of red blood cells.

Patients may also be instructed to take aspirin to reduce the risk of developing a blood clot.

Many people with PV feel fine and need only gentle treatment, as the disorder develops and progresses slowly.

Most cases develop later in life, with the average age at diagnosis being 60 years.

The median survival rate is 14 years for those over 60 when diagnosed, rising to 24 years for those under 60.

Source: UK cancer research

He is now taking chemotherapy pills to treat the incurable disease, which can lead to premature death if not well controlled.

Hamilton added: “The word ‘cancer’ scares everyone.

“But my consultant said, to put it in perspective, ‘If you’re going to get cancer, this is the best cancer you could get.’ That was very reassuring.

Hamilton’s GP referred him to St Luke’s Cancer Center at Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guilford, Surrey, after he complained of blood in his urine last November.

His consultant broke the news that he had polycythemia vera, which is diagnosed by blood and bone marrow tests. Some patients also undergo X-rays and oxygen tests.

Polycythemia vera can cause headaches, blurred vision, dizziness, and tiredness, as well as reddening of the skin, especially on the face, hands, and feet.

It is usually caused by a gene change that causes the bone marrow to make too many red blood cells.

As more red blood cells are produced, the blood becomes thicker, which can lead to complications such as gout, bleeding problems, and blood clots, which can trigger heart attacks and strokes.

The average age of diagnosis is 60 and around one in 50,000 Britons are thought to have the condition.

People over the age of 60 are expected to live 14 years after diagnosis, with life expectancy rising to 24 years for those under 60.

Hamilton said: “I had no other indications, such as dizziness or tiredness, and that is why the diagnosis took me by surprise.

‘When my GP sent me to St Luke’s, I said to my wife: “What am I doing here, I don’t have cancer?”

“I was feeling perfectly fine, except I was urinating blood, which is always a concern, but that could be due to an infection.

“They told me I had too many red blood cells and was at risk of having a heart attack or stroke.”

He underwent a venesection once a week for six weeks, when about half a liter of blood is drawn to lower his red blood cell count.

The DJ then took two hydroxycarbamide chemotherapy pills a day for six weeks.

Hamilton said: “At the end of that six-week period, I went back to the hospital and was told that unfortunately my red blood cells were still above the safe level, so I needed to go back and donate more blood.

“My spirits sank because it had been quite difficult because my veins weren’t that clear and obvious.”

His doctor advised him to cut down on alcohol and red meat and exercise more, so he walks his dog every day and plans to swim in the summer.

He also continued to host his radio show on Boom Radio, a UK-wide national radio station aimed primarily at Baby Boomers aged 60-75.

Hamilton's doctor advised her to cut down on alcohol and red meat, and get more exercise, so she walks her dog (pictured) every day and plans to swim in the summer.

Hamilton’s doctor advised her to cut down on alcohol and red meat, and get more exercise, so she walks her dog (pictured) every day and plans to swim in the summer.

The radio DJ said: 'The diagnosis came like a bolt out of the blue.  I have had 83 years of the most wonderful health.  But now I'm at the top and I live with it and I know I can handle it.  It is a condition you can live with for years.

The radio DJ said: ‘The diagnosis came like a bolt out of the blue. I have had 83 years of the most wonderful health. But now I’m at the top and I live with it and I know I can handle it. It is a condition you can live with for years.

Hamilton said: ‘Continuing to work at Boom Radio was important to me because I love my job. Since I started the day it launched in February of last year, I haven’t missed a show.

‘When I was diagnosed with cancer, it made no difference. I just go to my hospital appointments around my show. Show that you could continue working.

The DJ also revealed how his wife Dreena, whom he married in the Caribbean in 1993, has been ‘fantastic’ and supportive.

He said: ‘I think it was a very good change in my career to marry someone who was a former nurse.

‘She comes with me to the hospital every time. Sometimes she drives home because after donating a lot of blood, you shouldn’t drive, so she’s the chauffeur.

She has been very worried about me because she has never seen me before. I mean, she’s known me for 40 years. She has never seen me have any kind of illness. She is a bit younger at 74, but this also surprised her a bit.

During a recent checkup, Hamilton was told that chemotherapy tablets had brought his red blood cells back to a safe level.

She is waiting to find out if she needs to continue taking the pills and if she will need any other treatment in the future.

He said: ‘That was a huge relief to me. I need to take the pills for the next six weeks as well, and I haven’t had any dramatic side effects, just a little tiredness. It’s a pretty mild chemo.

“The diagnosis came like a bolt out of the blue. I have had 83 years of the most wonderful health. But now I’m at the top and I live with it and I know I can handle it. It is a condition that you can live with for years.

‘My consultant said this is not curable, but it is treatable. So there is no cure for that. You have it, and you’re stuck with it. It is very rare and very few people have it. From the moment of being diagnosed you can live 15 years or more, which will take me to 100.

‘The NHS has been absolutely wonderful. I can’t speak very well and I know the NHS is heavily criticized. But I haven’t had to wait. No delays, no postponements. They have been absolutely wonderful.

“When the nurses have trouble drawing blood from me, I tell them, my wife says you can’t get blood from a stone and she should know. And we all have a laugh. You have to see the funny side of her.

www.boomradiouk.com/david-hamilton/

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