February 18, 2008 11:00pm
A TEARY Wally Lewis has told how he contemplated killing himself during a long battle with depression.
The rugby league legend revealed his bouts of depression were induced by the fear of having an on-air epileptic seizure or stroke while presenting sport news for Channel 9.
Lewis said he had struggled with epilepsy since he was 19, but it had been kept secret during his football career.
Former players expressed shock at Lewis's admissions in Woman's Day and on A Current Affair.
"He has told me since he actually had epileptic fits during games I played in and I would never have known," former teammate John Ribot told The Courier-Mail .
Wally's game battle
Doctors took out a 5cm by 3cm damaged piece of Lewis's brain in an operation last year that ended the seizures.
The aftermath left one of Queensland's rugby league legends with restricted language and cognitive skills.
The agonising road to recovery included acute memory loss with painful headaches.
"The pain was unbearable," he said. "I had painkillers but I was very scared of becoming addicted, so I'd take half a tablet rather than a full one."
Jacqui said her husband was "basically lost to the nightmare of seizures for about 20 years".
"Things were getting really bad two years before the operation," she said. "We'd argue a lot as I was terrified he'd have a seizure while driving back down the mountain from his commitments at Channel 9."
But Jacqui said the dark days of Lewis's depression were behind them, with Lewis back on air and returning to the confident man of old.
"Thanks to the operation he has control of his life again," she said. "The difference in Wally is like night and day."
Lewis revealed his darkest days followed his on-air seizure in November 2006 in the lead-up to, and following, the operation he had.
"I was dirty on the world. No one could help me," he said.
"The only thing I was thinking about was screwing up on air again.
"I used to arrive on the set of Channel 9 every night and I'd be absolutely petrified that something was going to happen on camera.
"When the seizures did occur I'd sink down and think, how much longer do I have to deal with this?"
In the candid interviews Lewis also revealed he bawled "like a kid" while breaking down in front of doctors who quizzed him about his recovery.
He said the fear of an on-air stroke and the embarrassment it could cause his family plagued him for years.
"Suicide was something I thought of every two or three days," he told A Current Affair last night. "I went to the jetty that runs off my backyard and I thought: Do I just jump off? Do I put myself in a bag filled with bricks? How do I do it?"
The depth of Lewis's despair came as a shock to friends, family and his legion of fans throughout the country.
But Jacqui said her husband had made a remarkable comeback and his memory was getting better all the time.
"You don't just take out a piece of brain and expect to bounce back straight away."
For his part, Lewis said he had been buoyed by the large amount of fan mail received.
"The letters, cards and emails blew me out of the water," he said. "I will get back to every person to say thank you."
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