I Refused To Be A Real Gone Kid
The Mirror 17th April 2001

DEACON Blue star Graeme Kelling has revealed how he won his fight against the same disease which killed football legend Jim Baxter. 

The Scots band's lead guitarist was hit by cancer of the pancreas in 1999. The killer illness destroyed his digestive system and caused his weight to plummet by seven stones. 

But Graeme, 45, says he has beaten the disease and is planning a sensational return to the stage tomorrow as the band kick off their comeback in Glasgow. The married dad-of-one said: "It will be a good physical test. I'm looking forward to it." 

He spoke out after Rangers and Scotland idol Baxter, 61, died peacefully at home in Glasgow with his family at his side. The midfield genius was diagnosed in January with the disease, which spread through his body. And his death reminds Graeme how lucky he is. 

Deacon Blue formed in 1986 and went on to record a string of hits, including Dignity, Wages Day and Real Gone Kid before splitting to pursue separate careers. During their heyday burly Graeme, who is over 6ft tall, weighed more than 14 stone. But the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, including a diet of Indian takeaways, led to an ulcer. 

Then, in 1999, Graeme, who is married to TV producer Julie, needed painkillers to get through a tour. As baffled doctors struggled to pinpoint the problem the pain became so intense Graeme was virtually unable to eat. After forcing down just two fish fingers in six days, he was rushed to hospital for tests. 

Surgeons told him he had a tumour on the pancreas, a six inch organ which produces digestive juices to break down food. The musician was told they would have to slice away most of his pancreas, half of his stomach and a third of his bile duct. 

Graeme said: "Then they sew the whole thing up again and hopefully it works. When you think about it, it's a miraculous hope." Graeme and Julie, who gave birth to son Alexander a year earlier, were shattered by the news. He said: "We got into the car and both burst into tears. "We sat weeping. It was good, though. It meant we'd had our grief and had to get on with it." 

Graeme pulled through the surgery but his weight tumbled to less than eight stone. 
He said: "I thought about food all the time but my body was refusing to eat. A piece of toast tastes like a carpet tile. "It was like having the body of a 100-year-old man, or something out of a horror film. 

"Because I have no meat on my bones I'm cold all the time. I have to wear layers of clothing. 
"I look like a yeti when I step out of the house." Graeme is now nearing nine stone and believes his son, wife and mum have played a large part in his rehabilitation. 

He said: "Alexander is such a leveller. I don't know how I would have got through it without him and Julie. "He loves you unreservedly. He is our future and I held on to that when things got really tough." But he admitted it was his wife urging him to have his stomach pain checked which saved his life. 

Graeme said: "If it had been up to me I'd have just put up with it until it was too late." The Glasgow-based guitarist has returned to thank the staff at Gartnavel hospital and said he feels guilty when Marie Curie nurses come to check up on him. He said: "Their role is dealing with people who are terminal. They do a brilliant job, but I thought 'I'm not going to die now, I'm cured'." 

Tomorrow night Deacon Blue will return to King Tut's Wah Wah Hut where they first made a name for themselves. The Glasgow sweatbox will be crammed with 300 fans for the one-off bash. And, as they shout his name, it will give brave Graeme the chance to reclaim his dignity. Graham Tibbetts