Healthy Living

Dancing Through the Shadows: Julian Benson Shares Struggle with Cystic Fibrosis

Dancing Through the Shadows: Julian Benson Shares Struggle with Cystic Fibrosis

Photo: RTE

Julian Benson is one of Ireland’s leading choreographers and talent agents. He’s the man with the sequined jackets and a louder than life personality. So of course he would be a fan-favorite judge of RTE’s Dancing With The Stars.
Julian received his training at the Performing Arts School of Western Australia and has since choreographed numerous stage and TV productions.

In addition to his grandiose dance resume, he also runs his own company—Julian Benson Management—which represents Irish vocalists, actors and dancers across the world.

Benson has staged numerous shows throughout the years, included Celtic Fusion in the United Arab Emirates, the Crown Ball for Princess Anne and the sixtieth birthday concert for Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber at the RTE Concert Orchestra in the National Concert Hall, just to name a few.

As a judge of RTE’s Dancing With The Stars, Julian is known not only for his devotion to and honesty with the contestants but for his glitzy jackets. He has said that in judging he is looking for “passion, performance and personality.” Benson brings his own unique flair and flavor to the show, day in and day out.

Opening up about cystic fibrosis and his mother

After missing the first two shows of series two of RTE’s Dancing With The Stars due to a hospital stay related to pneumonia, Julian shared his story of living with cystic fibrosis on the Late Late Show with Ryan Tubridy. "Cystic fibrosis is like a genetic, inherited disease," he explained. "Essentially, it affects the lungs and the pancreatic system. It builds up mucus so where you're getting constant chest infections. So, you've got to mind yourself and, again, it's all about you have to be on a regime, a permanent regime of antibiotics and medication to keep you as well as you can [be]."

Benson told host Tubridy: “I was like any other child. My mum worked up this fantastic scenario where I went to school like everybody else I knew—Julian gets up, Julian takes his medication, he goes to school, he does everything else—and I was encouraged to do everything that I really wanted to do. So for me, I felt like everybody else.”

Julian recounted how he had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at two years of age, after having spent a year in Temple Street Children’s Hospital. Julian revealed that only a few years ago he learned his mother was told he would not live past age twelve or thirteen.

Benson paid tribute to his late mother for the impact she had on his health and overall outlook on life.

“My mum was amazing; I had this amazing, amazing mother. I didn’t realize until later years that there was anything really, really wrong with me. This was the most amazing thing.”

“I have CF but CF doesn’t have me. It doesn’t define who I am,” spoke Benson. “I really mean that and I put that down to my mum, because I was encouraged to do everything I wanted to do. I wanted to dance. I was always dressing up, listening to music, watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies. Music was my medicine.”

Julian said, “I am here today—sitting with you alive and fresh and, you know, feeling happy and wonderful to be here—because of my mum. She didn’t mollycoddle me, but she encouraged me. She supported me. She was there for myself and my brother. She looked after us both and got us here.”

Having come so far and achieved so many things, Benson now hopes that by sharing his story he will enable others with cystic fibrosis to believe in themselves and pursue their hopes and dreams.

Julian said, “For the last few years, I always said to myself, ‘if I ever got to a stage in my life that I had a platform, and got to a successful point that I could maybe share my story to help other people believe in themselves, to just go for their goals and dreams, then I would share it.'”

Benson attributes his dedication to fitness and dancing to his ability to keep moving. "The dancing was my medicine, dancing was my life. And through that... Because with CF you've got to keep your lungs going, your body going. And it's like [that] really for everybody: we're an engine - we've got to keep ourselves going."

Looking to the future

When speaking of the future, Julian says he hopes to “set up a charity and an organization and a foundation” for others with cystic fibrosis. “It’s about giving back,” says Benson. “I want to help kids. I want to help raise funds for cystic fibrosis.”

Benson’s end goal is to build respite homes for parents, family and friends of people with cystic fibrosis because, in his words, “there’s nowhere for them really to go when people are sick. And a lot of people with CF are in the hospital for a long time, could be in for many, many months. So I want to do that - put holistic treatments into hospitals as well because people are in for long-term care. I just want to try and do good and give back and help.”

"Because I have a platform now - God has been good to me - and this was the time to talk about it and share. But be positive. Believe in your dreams, you can achieve your dreams. No matter how tough life gets, keep hope, follow the light and you will achieve. I'm still doing it, I'm still kicking. As Elton John said, 'I'm still standing!'”

Julian was heralded as an inspiration when he took to the dance floor on the Dancing With The Stars finale just two days after his emotional, revealing interview.

Julian Benson proves day in and day out that if you believe it, you can achieve it!