Jonnie Irwin lived life to the fullest even when he knew he was dying (Picture: BBC)
Jonnie Irwin was told in 2020 that he potentially had ‘months’ to live, a gut-wrenching diagnosis that only spurred him to build a legacy he should be proud of.
The beloved A Place in the Sun presenter kept his terminal lung cancer private initially, later speaking out and proceeding to keep fans updated on both his treatment and the memories he made with his loved ones.
Following the devastating news of his death on Friday (February 2) at the age of 50, Irwin’s online followers and TV co-stars have recalled fond memories, reminding us all to celebrate the courage, optimism, and fighting spirit of a man who was more than his illness.
Co-stars Jasmine Harman, Danni Menzies, and Scarlette Douglas were among those penning emotional goodbyes, with Harman declaring him her ‘partner in crime’.
She described his personality as ‘so charismatic and energetic, so confident and fun’ from the moment they met, confessing ‘the world is a little darker’ without him in it.
Meanwhile, wife Jessica – who wed Irwin in 2016 – thanked him for ‘eight bonkers years of love’ and vowed to continue ‘making [him] proud’.
The TV presenter was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2020 (Picture: David Fisher/Shutterstock)
The mum-of-three wrote online: ‘You gave so much time to others and touched everyone you met, I have never experienced anything like the effect you had on people.’
In his final years, Irwin lived life to the fullest.
He continued to make regular appearances on our screens, whether it be on Morning Live or Escape to the Country, throw himself into personal projects (such as home renovations), and be present for milestones with his wife, Jess, and three young sons.
Last June, he marked what he sadly correctly suspected would be his final Father’s Day with Rex, four, and two-year-old twins Rafa and Cormac.
Irwin’s children remained unaware of his health woes, as he wanted to avoid ‘confusing’ them.
‘I keep being asked, “Are you going to tell them?” but tell them what?’, he said previously.
Irwin chose not to tell his three young sons about his illness (Picture: Instagram)
His wife, Jessica Holmes, was his rock (Picture: Instagram)
He added to Hello! Magazine: ‘It would be horrible news that they’d have to get their heads around. And it would confuse the hell out of Rex – he’s got a shocking enough day coming. Let’s bury our heads in the sand for as long as possible.’
Irwin made plenty of memories with his little gang before his final days, even when cancer treatment took its toll.
The doting dad witnessed Rex starting primary school, treated his brood to a summer staycation, maintained an interest in his sons’ hobbies, and spoiled his little ones rotten.
His final TV appearance also documented him building a house he could leave to Rex, Rafa, and Cormac when he was gone.
He did all of this despite struggling to stay afloat financially, having revealed A Place in the Sun cast him aside once learning how unwell he was, hence his reasoning behind keeping his cancer secret for two years.
‘The only reason I kept it secret is because I’ve got to earn, I’ve got to feed my babies, pay the bills,’ he told the OneChat podcast with AIG life.
The A Place in the Sun star kept fans updated on his treatment (Picture: Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock)
‘And as soon as you say you’ve got cancer, people just write you off.’
He added: ‘I had to live with it as a secret. It was really difficult living with such a massive cloud above me and pretending to everyone else.’
‘For the first year and a half, I could work,’ he said.
‘Unfortunately, one of the companies claimed they couldn’t insure and didn’t renew my contract. It left a massive hole in my income.’
Thankfully, Irwin found support in other networks and colleagues, praising Escape to the Country specifically for how they uplifted him and made him feel ‘alive’ again.
There’s no denying the range of treatments he sought – from NHS care to alternative therapies such as a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, vitamin C, and reiki – drained Irwin, as he admitted to losing sleep and battling intense side effects.
He also endured several stints in hospital, including for jaundice in November last year, putting him under regular observation and undergoing countless tests.
Irwin was determined to make the most of every second (Picture: Channel 4)
One thing remained constant, though, and it was Irwin’s zest for life.
Prior to his 50th birthday, Irwin’s weight dropped drastically. His pain levels were unbearable and he was sent home by doctors to be with his wife and children ahead of those dreaded final moments.
Despite all that was thrown at him and stating frankly that he had been ‘on the cusp of death’, Irwin never thought about the end.
After rebuilding his strength back up, the property expert took his family to Spain to ring in his 50th in sunny style.
‘I’d never thought about dying, despite the cancer, and Jess and I don’t talk about it,’ he told The Sun in 2023.
‘But at my weakest point, I thought, “This is it, this is the beginning of the end”.’
‘I never thought I’d be here,’ he admitted.
Additionally, the much-loved presenter continued to view each day as a ‘gift’, even when uncertain which would be his last.
He celebrated many more milestones with his wife and children in his final years, giving them memories to cherish (Picture: Instagram)
Jessica and their three boys will continue to make him proud (Picture: Instagram)
He told The Mirror: ‘As soon as I spoke out I felt I could breathe. I could talk to people about why I felt ill and why I was losing weight.’
Emphasising the impact that he hoped his platform could have on others, he added: ‘I also wanted to show that because you have cancer it doesn’t mean you are a different person. You can still work. Look at me now!
‘I don’t think the doctors were expecting me to make 2023 but here I am and I’m available at work. And I’m especially available for parties!’
And that impact is most definitely being felt already in the wake of Irwin’s death, as loyal viewers, property fanatics, showbiz companions, and cancer survivors reflect on the work he did and how it touched their hearts.
One of the most poignant tributes came from his dear wife, who declared how ‘unfair’ it is that he had to suffer so greatly.
Jessica stated that Irwin’s end was ‘cruel’, but it’s undeniable that his legacy is much more than cancer. As he now rests in his own place in the sun, the beloved TV star will be remembered for the awareness he raised and the joy he brought to countless lives.
Macmillan cancer support