Downton Abbey Star Nicky Henson Reveals He's Been Battling Cancer For 18 Years But Never Lost His Humor

Date February 28, 2018

Downton Abbey actor Nicky Henson, who played Mr. Carson’s old stage partner Charlie Grigg in the drama series, has opened up that he has been battling cancer for the past 18 years.

© Downton Abbey (2010–2015) / Carnival Film & Television


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It was on Christmas day, 18 years ago, Henson found out he had gastrointestinal stromal tumors. The actor had to go through an operation where half of his colon and part of his stomach were removed. After that, he started taking cancer-treating drugs. But despite the surgery and the drugs, the large tumor in his stomach came back.

In his essay in The Mirror, the 72-year-old actor, who also starred in EastEnders and Fawlty Towers, confessed about his struggles. He wrote:

It's amazing what they can do now. When my generation heard the 'c' word we thought that's it. My three sons looked it all up on the internet and said, 'Listen dad, it's not like the old days - you'll be alright.' And I have been for 18 years.


When his tumor came back, the actor said:

I've been fighting cancer for 18 years now so it's just part of my life. Whatever happens, happens. It's not so much fighting it, it's keeping a sense of humour.

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He added:

I swim half a mile every day but I've always done that. I haven't smoked for about 45 years, but I drink alcohol and I'm not going to stop having a good time. If I'm going to be here, you need to enjoy it! I consider myself a very lucky person.

His battle with the disease didn’t end there. Later, Nicky learned he had prostate cancer. The actor admitted that he had 21 medical procedures in a year. Now, he has a stent which needs to be replaced every five to six months.


He praised his family for helping him stay positive and making sure he lives every day to its fullest.

 My wife Marguerite has been extraordinary. Aside from the fact she saved my life about four times after finding me in difficult situations, she has to deal with the day-to-day side.

Nicky has been married for 27 years to dancer and teacher Marguerite Porter, who is a Royal Ballet star, with whom he has a 25-year-old son, musician Keaton. Henson also has two sons, composers Joe and Christian, from his first marriage to actress Una Stubbs.

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