He graced our TV screens for 47 years. But following a shock fifth cancer diagnosis, Brian Henderson has made one of the hardest decisions of his life.
He graced our TV screens for 47 years. But following a shock fifth cancer diagnosis, Brian Henderson has made one of the hardest decisions of his life.

Brian Henderson’s cancer battle: ‘I’m not afraid of death’

Veteran TV newsreader and national treasure Brian Henderson has been diagnosed with kidney cancer and at 88 has elected not to have surgery, choosing instead to spend his last days counting his blessings and savouring every splendid moment left to him.

After battling and defeating cancer on four previous occasions, Henderson, or "Hendo" as he became known during his record-settling 47-year television career, has, in consultation with wife Mardi, told his doctor he won't be having keyhole surgery to remove a tumorous right kidney or any accompanying radiation or chemotherapy treatment.

"I've had plenty of cancer over the years - I think I've had one of every kind," Henderson, who is in good spirits, told The Sunday Telegraph.

Brian Henderson reveals he plans to spend the rest of his days with family and feeding kookaburras, lorikeets and water dragons. Picture: Suppled
Brian Henderson reveals he plans to spend the rest of his days with family and feeding kookaburras, lorikeets and water dragons. Picture: Suppled

"I've had my prostate removed, a piece of bowel taken out and then - the worst of them - throat cancer, a few years back. That was a toughie.

"I've had melanomas, I've had it all. This is a new twist but I'm grateful for it.

"Twice in the same place might be bad news but I haven't had that and am told the cancers are all unrelated."

MORE FROM ANNETTE SHARP

Testing times for Nine boss Hugh Marks

Celebrity gaffes and society slip-ups

Henderson has no idea how the cancer is progressing following diagnosis in September after he first detected blood in his urine stream.

"My doctor said the tumour in my kidney is likely to be slow growing so I've decided, at my age, to leave it there. The doctor said I'm likely to die of something else before this kills me," he said.

Mardi, Henderson's wife of 48 years, rattles off the cancers her husband - who from 1957 to 1972 was one of the Nine Network's biggest stars during stints as evening news anchor and, from 1958 to 1972, host of national music program Bandstand - has beaten.

In 1999, Henderson was diagnosed with bowel cancer forcing the removal of a section of bowel. In 2004, his doctors removed his prostate after cancer was found in it.

Then in 2014, after a decade cancer free, the newsreader with the nationally-famous mellifluous voice was diagnosed with throat cancer.

 

Henderson with the love of his life, wife Mardi. Picture: Chris Pavlich
Henderson with the love of his life, wife Mardi. Picture: Chris Pavlich

Thirty sessions of radiation treatment destroyed a tumour on a tonsil and half his salivary glands and took its toll.

Henderson has ruled more radiation treatment.

"I'm a big coward really," he said, adding he's currently in no pain beyond that associated with leg pain due to his advanced years.

A surprise diagnosis of hydrocephalus of the brain in 2013 demanded the insertion of a shunt to drain fluid from his brain to his abdomen.

The shunt and associated scar tissue now pose an obstacle to any proposed surgery to remove his right kidney as the shunt increases the risk of future infection travelling from the surgical site directly to Henderson's brain.

"We weighed up the risk associated with Brian having the kidney tumour removed and thought, as per the doctor's advice, it was too great," Mardi said.

"His mind is good, he's still sharp, he still makes me laugh and we are happy so we're counting our blessings."

Henderson is the longest-serving Channel 9 news reader. Picture: Nathan Edwards
Henderson is the longest-serving Channel 9 news reader. Picture: Nathan Edwards

Counted among Henderson's blessings is "wonderful" Mardi, two daughters, Nicole and Jody, and five grandchildren - all of whom enjoyed a cherished Christmas together on the Gold Coast.

"Hendo", who still checks the television ratings on his computer most mornings and can tell you Nine lost the first hour of the 6pm ratings battle to Seven on Thursday night and that Married At First Sight is rating well but is a little risqué for his tastes, said he has given his last speech and made his last public appearance.

Henderson on Bandstand in 1965.
Henderson on Bandstand in 1965.

There is little that can draw him out of the family home in Middle Cove these days where he twice daily delights in feeding kookaburras, lorikeets and water dragons.

"I've had a great life and I'm still enjoying it. My only concern is for Mardi, who may be a bit lonely when I'm gone," he said.

"I won't go tomorrow but what's the point of living if you have to spend it in a hospital having treatment after treatment.

"I'm not afraid of death - in fact I welcome it. I've had a wonderful life. How blessed can you be?"

 

Henderson graced our TV screens before 47 years before handing the news reading reigns over to Peter Overton. Picture: Braden Fastier
Henderson graced our TV screens before 47 years before handing the news reading reigns over to Peter Overton. Picture: Braden Fastier