Ronnie Cairns told of cancer on day of funeral

Ronnie Cairns says he will battle hard to beat the cancer. Picture: Gareth Easton

Ronnie Cairns says he will battle hard to beat the cancer. Picture: Gareth Easton

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A CANCER-hit councillor received his grim diagnosis on the day a close colleague who died of the disease was buried.

Veteran SNP stalwart Ronnie Cairns, 69, was told he has prostate cancer on the day former Edinburgh Council economy chief Tom Buchanan was laid to rest last April.

Colleague Cllr Cairns made public his year-long ­battle with the disease during an emotional speech on Thursday.

He told political figures he would know whether treatment had been successful in three months’ time.

Choking back tears the grandfather-of-four insisted he will shout the results from the staircase of City Chambers with a glass of champagne in his hand – if medics gave him the vital all-clear.

The former ScotRail engineer, who represents Drumbrae/Gyle, today told how he learned about his diagnosis just hours after burying his friend, the late Cllr Tom Buchanan, who died from a brain tumour aged 55.

Speaking to the News, Cllr Cairns said: “I shared an office with Tom for five years and because I have a motorhome we’d travel together to any conferences we were going to. It’s still very difficult for me going into that office, because I was so close to Tom.

“I helped look after him for about a year when he was ill and saw everything he was going through.

“When I got my diagnosis for prostate cancer I thought ‘If my only problem is that it’s sore having a wee and then I get the all-clear, I’m a fraud’.”

He added: “I attended his funeral and afterwards I was having a cup of tea when the doctor phoned and said to contact him urgently.

“We spoke, and was told I’d got it [prostate cancer].

“I don’t know how bad it is but I said ‘I’m going to be 
positive about this the whole time’ and I have been.” Since being diagnosed, Cllr Cairns has endured surgery and seven weeks of radiation 
therapy.

He was also prescribed a course of female hormone tables to stop the illness thriving which he said “made me feel great”.

“But when I asked the doctor for another dose, he told me ‘No. If we give you any more you’ll have to join the Lady Boys of Bangkok.”

An amateur dramatics enthusiast, the SNP ­member of 40 years is expected to learn if he has beaten cancer in June.

Cllr Cairns said: “I’ve done everything the doctors have asked me to do. If they said ‘stand on your head and we’re going to give you a kicking’ I would have let them.

“I’ve been as cheery as I can. When I was getting treatment there were people there who only had months to live.

“You have to try to laugh. You can sit in the corner and cry or just get on with life.

“I’ve made some fantastic friends through this.”

Edinburgh SNP leader Cllr Steve Cardownie said: “Ronnie thanked people from all political groups for the messages of support he has received.

“Something like this brings people together.”

david.mccann@edinburghnews.com