JAMES Whale was secretly suffering from pneumonia while in the Celebrity Big Brother house, but refused to leave.
The TalkTV presenter, 72, was told he could choose to withdraw from the competition by medics as his "lungs packed up".
Determined James argued off-camera with his doctor, who eventually agreed to "pump him full of steroids" so he could continue on the show.
Speaking exclusively to The Sun about being on series 18 amid Big Brother's revival on ITV, James said: "What do they call it when your lungs pack up and you can't breathe much?
"Pneumonia. I got that. I thought I just had a bad cold.
"They called me into the Diary Room and said I didn't appear to be well.
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"They got me to a doctor who examined me, but that wasn't seen on TV.
"He said I had pneumonia and recommended I leave.
"I thought, 'but do I get paid if I leave?'"
James signed a big money deal to go into the world-famous house alongside the likes of the now-disgraced Stephen Bear and Christopher Biggins, who was axed for making a sick Nazi joke.
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In an attempt to keep hold of his pay cheque, James stayed for another two weeks until he was eventually evicted.
"In my mind I realised if I went home I'd just be lying around there instead," added James, who presents James Whale Unleashed on Saturdays from 7pm.
"The doctor gave me a load of steroids to help my immune system.
"I decided I should stay because I'd get better medical treatment in the Big Brother house than anywhere else."
James ended up staying for 23 days, narrowly missing out on a place in the final of Channel 5's show in 2016.
The series was ultimately won by Bear – who is currently in prison for recording and leaking a sex tape of his exGeorgia Harrison without consent.
Meanwhile James remains one of the country's most respected TV and radio personalities, having now been in the business for 50 years.
He recently received the first ever TRIC Recognition Award for his outstanding work in the industry.
Sadly, James was diagnosed with stage-four cancer in 2020.
The terminally-ill host is no longer receiving treatment, but continues to present his TalkTV show every Saturday night.
This weekend he is relaunching his popular programme as part of the channel's schedule shake-up.
"I will probably be very rude about Big Brother on my show this Saturday," admits James.
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"I watched the launch night for 20 minutes and I couldn’t stand it. Everybody was trying so hard to be a personality. I possibly think this kind of TV has had its day."
James Whale Unleashed is on TalkTV every Saturday from 7pm.
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