As the Gaiety Theatre’s longtime ‘panto dame’, Joe Conlan is a familiar face to Irish families who make a trip to the theater an annual tradition.
But when we get to the end of 2022, what he’s most looking forward to is celebrating being cancer-free after a very tough battle.
He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in January 2019 and spent the next year seeking treatment while battling the disease and trying to stay mentally positive.
“I kept it very quiet until I knew what I was dealing with,” he said.
“I spoke to Gaiety manager Leo McKenna and (owner) Caroline Downey and got great support from them.
“Caroline said, ‘What can we do for you?’
“I said, ‘Nothing, I’m in a good place, I’ll take care of it, I’ll get on with it.’ Now, three years later, I couldn’t be better.
“So there is power in positivity and confidence. I’m very spiritual in my own way and the bumps along the way always make you stronger.”
For him, part of staying positive was continuing to perform. In one case of “The show must go on” that year he also played in the Christmas panto, Aladdin.
“I did 92 shows, got treatment and had blood drawn. I started treatment in June…I won’t say it was rosy in the garden, but you get used to it,” he said.
“The medical professionals have been wonderful in taking care of me and supporting me from the oncology team.
“But everyone deals with it differently, that’s how I dealt with it and was able to get a positive result. I’m clear now for three years and I just take it year after year. I have a wonderful family doctor and I will always go for a general check-up. Your health is your wealth.”
He said Irish men don’t always put their health first, but as an ambassador for the Irish Cancer Society (ICS) he urged anyone concerned about symptoms to get checked out.
“It’s something I’m talking about loudly now. I did the Camino Challenge for the ICS and raised €15,000 for them. Men’s health is very important to us in this country. Men’s health is terribly important and Irish men aren’t very good at all of that.”
This holiday season he’s starring in the role of Nanny Nincompoop in the Gaiety production of The jungle Book. With producers having to pull the plug on live performances early due to Covid, he said it was a pleasure to be back in full force.
He said Baloo often gets the biggest cheers from the audience during the show, especially when he’s getting started The most important, and also cites the three youths who play Mowgli as standout stars.
“When you see the little kids in the audience, they say, ‘Wow.’ It might be their first time seeing a panto and they want to be at the top,” he said.
“I was that kid. I didn’t live too far from this beautiful theater and I was in the gods, looking at these pantos, paying my money to see them and I sat there and said ‘wow’.”
Next year, the theater will stage its production of Cinderella to mark its 150th anniversary.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/theres-a-power-in-being-positive-bumps-in-the-road-always-make-you-stronger-gaiety-panto-dame-joe-conlan-on-cancer-battle-42243942.html “There is power in being positive, bumps in the road always make you stronger” – Gaiety “Panto Dame” Joe Conlan on battling cancer