AS Jon Courtenay was capturing the nation’s hearts winning Britain’s Got Talent, the 47-year-old from Mossley was secretly battling cancer.
It is only now Jon, from Shire Fold, has gone public and even written a song about the experience as he wants to encourage people to look out for unusual moles or lumps.
“If I can get some good out of my experience and it helps only one person spot something which is wrong, then it will have been worthwhile,” explained Jon.
And after making appearances on television and appearing in the national press to raise awareness, Jon revealed he has had “amazing feedback”.
He said: “People have contacted me to say they seen my messages and got something done with moles or lumps they have.
“That has been fantastic when you know you have made a difference.”
Jon is urging anyone with any worries to seek help.
“It is thought cancer is being forgotten because of Covid but it is still a priority so go and see your GP,” he explained.
It was back in February 2020 when Jon noticed a new mole appear from nowhere on the side of his head.
“I shave my head every other day and the weird shape and colour was something I noticed,” he said.
However, Jon delayed visiting his doctor until July because initially he had been away performing on cruise ships and was at the beginning of his remarkable journey on BGT while Covid had also disrupted the nation.
Jon was immediately referred by his GP to a dermatology specialist and has the mole removed in late August.
However, one month later Jon was given the result of the biopsy which revealed the melanoma was cancerous.
Within a fortnight Jon had a hospital appointment to discuss surgery with fears the cancer may have spread to the lymph nodes in his neck.
It was not until December 4 that Jon had surgery which had been delayed because he contracted coronavirus.
The depth of the mole was 2.8mm in depth which was classed as ‘intermediate’ so a 5cm incision was required and that left a sizeable scar.
Jon was told it would between two and three weeks before the results of the latest biopsy but on December 22 was given the all-clear.
Jon was recipient of a new trial fake skin graft on the scar will take up to four months to heal.
Jon said: “I was lucky one of the nurses was a fan of BGT and she told the surgeon who thought I would be a perfect patient for the skin substitute.
“It will ensure I don’t have as large a dent on my head compared with a traditional graft which is great when appearing on television.”
Jon only told his wife Emmah and a handful of close friends about his cancer.
“It was happening during BGT but I didn’t want to send out a sob story,” he explained.
Jon admitted it was a rollercoaster of emotions and he had suffered anxiety attacks as he had contemplated the worst.
He said: “It should have been the most joyous time of my life with what was happening on BGT.
“But I was being ripped apart by this which was the roughest thing that has ever happened to me.
“I am generally a very optimist person and, if anything bad happens, I shake myself.
“I must admit there were some dark periods wondering what might happen. It is worst late at night and often kept me awake.”
Jon was only recently made aware Macmillan Cancer Support would have been available to support him.
He said: “With Macmillan you think of them helping with the worst-case scenarios like end-of-life.
“But they are available to anyone and all you have to do is pick up the phone.
“Others have since told me they didn’t realise Macmillan were there to help with general anxiety which they refer to as ‘scansanxiety’.”
Jon was fulsome in his praise of The Christie saying staff were “amazing, so efficient and so lovely”.
The day after his surgery Jon travelled to London to record the BGT Christmas special but again he did not reveal he had undergone surgery the previous day.
He said: “I probably should not have gone but I was down to close the show and didn’t want to miss it.
“It was tough and a long day’s filming which didn’t end until almost midnight.
“I struggled and it took three takes to get my song right. David Walliams gave me a pep talk saying I could do it.
“He must have thought it was nerves, but I was emotional after what had happened and weird that I couldn’t tell anyone the reason.”
Jon’s scar was visible, though, but he did not elaborate to BGT who found him a large Christmas hat to wear which was fitting for the festive special.
To help spread the message about his cancer, Jon has written the ‘Mole Song’ which he describes as a “jaunty” number to relate to his experiences.
“While it is a serious subject, it is catchy rather than someone delivering a lecture and it hits home the message about checking for unusual moles and lumps which may appear,” he said.
It can be viewed on the link below.
Jon is performing a public show on Saturday, February 27 with saxophonist Julian Smith, a former BGT contestant. The link to buy tickets is also below.
Jon is also busy preparing to record an album with his latest songs and for his nationwide tour later in the year.
The link for the Mole Song https://youtu.be/B_ppJKzDYCA
Or if it is easier, Jon’s YouTube channel is www.youtube.com/joncourtenay
The link for tickets for the show on February 27 www.ticketsource.co.uk and type in Jon Courtenay.
Anybody wishing to book Jon can do through www.greenfairyproductions.com and details about his 2021 theatre tour will be posted on twistedpianist.com
The Macmillan Support Line can be contacted on 0808 808 0000 (8am-8pm) or visit the charity online at www.macmillan.org.uk