Nicky Henson dead: Eastenders and Downton Abbey actor dies after 19 year cancer battle

16 December 2019, 09:38 | Updated: 16 December 2019, 15:59

Nicky Henson has died aged 74
Nicky Henson has died aged 74. Picture: Getty

Nicky Henson has died aged 74 after a 19 year battle with cancer.

Former Eastenders star Nicky Henson has died after a 19 year battle with cancer, his friend has confirmed.

The actor - who also appeared in Downton Abbey and Fawlty Towers, and had a number of roles in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre Company - was 74 years old.

His friend Ian Oglivy posted to Facebook: "After an illness which started twenty years ago, and which was born with great fortitude and good humour, my oldest and dearest friend, my mate Nicky Henson, has gone."

Nicky Henson appeared in a number of Royal Shakespeare Company productions
Nicky Henson appeared in a number of Royal Shakespeare Company productions. Picture: Getty

The actor opened up about his diagnosis last year, saying: "For the last 18 years, I've regarded myself as 'being in extra time', which I never expected to have, so I'm very thankful for it.

"I got my first cancer on Christmas day 18 years ago and didn’t think I was going to survive, after I was told I had a large tumour and would have to be operated on.

Nicky Henson starred on Eastenders
Nicky Henson starred on Eastenders. Picture: BBC

“To get rid of the first tumour, I had to have half my colon and a third of my stomach removed. I was fine, but a routine scan a few years later revealed I had another tumour. I was prescribed a drug, Gleevac, for six months, to reduce it to an operable size.

“During that time, I got my dream part as Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night at the RSC, but the physical strain of the part and the side effects of the drug meant I had to give it up. I knew then I’d never act on stage again, which broke my heart.

Nicky was diagnosed with cancer around 20 years ago
Nicky was diagnosed with cancer around 20 years ago. Picture: Getty

“A further operation found I had two tumours, and not one. One had shrunk, but it was attached to my spleen and had to be removed. So altogether I’ve had three gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTS) which are pretty rare. They grow on their own and attach themselves to organs.

“Ten years ago, they found I also had prostate cancer. I’ve had radiation for it but I developed really bad kidney stones, which are agony and have been the worst part of the whole thing. I had around 21 medical procedures over 12 months.

"It’s worn out my urethra so I have a stent [a small mesh tube that’s used to treat narrow or weak arteries] which has to be replaced every six months."

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