Martin’s long battle against the brain tumours that threatened to kill him have left him epileptic, dependent on medication and so dyslexic he can’t even read a script
At first glance, the future is looking rosy again for 80s pop heart-throb and former EastEnders star Martin Kemp.
After years of ill health and a lull in his once glittering career, his reformed band Spandau Ballet is being featured in a major new documentary and is off on a world tour next year.
But all is not as it seems. For Martin’s long battle against the brain tumours that threatened to kill him have left him epileptic, dependent on medication and so dyslexic he can’t even read a script.
He said: “It’s tough, but I can tell others, ‘Look at me, you too can come through something like this’.”
And that’s exactly what he’s doing with a new campaign to raise awareness of brain cancer in children and encourage parents to spot the signs early.
Martin, now 52, had his world turned upside down in 1995 when it was discovered he had two brain tumours – one the size of a grapefruit. A major operation and radiotherapy saved his life, but left him permanently damaged and under the threat the disease may return.
“Having epilepsy is quite common for anyone who has a brain tumour or is recovering from one,” he said. “I still take drugs to suppress it and will have to do so for the rest of my life.”
Martin, who played EastEnders bad-boy Steve Owen for four years until 2002, was also diagnosed with dyslexia after surgery. He said: “It is weird, a few wires obviously need soldering. And, as anyone with dyslexia will know, it’s a struggle.
“Whenever I read a script, the text jumps and moves around and it means I have to take my time. It also stops me from reading novels. Whenever I try, my brain does not want to do it and, if it sees a novel now, it will absolutely run a mile!”
So far, Martin has not had to face the dreadful prospect of the disease returning. He feels so lucky about that he is determined to be a role model for others who have had similar experiences.
He is backing the HeadSmart campaign, which raises awareness of how to detect the disease and is one of the 2014 National Lottery Awards finalists.
Which is how last week found him meeting children recovering from the condition. Martin said: “Brain tumours kill more children and young people than any other cancer and it takes longer for them to be diagnosed in the UK than in many other European countries.
“I have the tumours in common with these kids – but, unlike them, I didn’t know anyone who’d been in the same situation.”
Asked if he worries about the tumours coming back, he said: “You have to live with it. Doctors scan me every five years to see what is going on. One of mine was so large pieces had to be left behind as they are connected to important tissue.
“But I’m told there is the same chance of anyone getting one as there is of one coming back for me.”
And he is determined to keep fit for when Spandau Ballet, who reformed in 2009, take to the road again. He said: “I reckon we all have the stamina to do it. When you are young it’s all about the after-gig parties and clubs, but now we are all in our fifties it’s all
about the music.”
This October 250 cinemas will screen a documentary about the 70s pop band, called Soul Boys Of The Western World, which Martin hopes will also make it to TV. But one thing that won’t be happening is a return to EastEnders.
He said: “There is no chance that I would ever go back because they blew Steve Owen up – which I was quite happy about. It was long enough in one job.”
And don’t expect to see Martin in a pair of sequinned trousers any time soon. He said: “They have asked me a few times to appear on Strictly, but I cannot dance for the life of me. I’d see no point in me doing it to leave in the first week. I can only dance when I have my guitar around my neck!