Brent Pope joined his friend Marty Morrissey on RTÉ Radio 1 on Monday to discuss the "hellish year" he has faced, and to urge people to reach out to others.

The rugby analyst and author recounted that he had "ended up in hospital three or four times for varying things".

"My arms look like pincushions I've had that many needles in them," he said. "I'm still undergoing testing for a lot of things, and unfortunately some of them could be serious, you know?

"So, I'm not the same Brent Pope I was 12 months ago, and my life has changed forever. And it's not just Covid; it's going through this present health condition, which I'm yet to get answers about. I don't know whether those answers are going to be good or they're not. And, you know, people can notice it in my personality more than anything.

"I've been in waiting rooms for the last 10 months; waiting for that door to open to look at the doctor and say, 'Look, ok - is it good news or is it not-so-good news or is it bad news?' It's an awful place to be. An awfully scary, lonely place to be. Now, the doctors and nurses and that have been brilliant, but it grinds you down. You know, 10 months - it grinds you down."

"Has there been a diagnosis yet?" asked the host.

"No," Pope replied. "There have been quite a few diagnoses along the way. I've ended up in hospital for ulcers and bleeding ulcers and then various stages of liver problems. I've got other symptoms now that... I had an endoscope last weekend and they just said, 'Look, something's come up on that, so we're going to have to go in and have another look at that'."

"It's as if my immune system has packed in," Pope explained.

"It's as if this is a systematic attack. It's not just in one place; it's in a number of places... I'm really wanting some good news at some stage, but for the last 10 months I haven't had really anything to be able to hang my hat on without having to be further investigated... There's something going on and hopefully we'll get to the bottom of it, fingers crossed, and I can start to be well again."

"I know people have got their own problems," he continued.

"Friends have been great and looked after me when I've had to go into hospital - they've packed up bags for me and that. But it's been hard not being able to visit people or it's been hard having to talk to my brother or something at home [in New Zealand] or whatever and get his advice.

"But, I mean, everybody needs to learn from this Covid and learn that life is precious and to make that call to that person that's going through stuff or to call into that person who's lonely or to make more of an effort. Things have changed for me and they should change for everybody. Everybody should lead kinder lives, less materialistic [lives], not worry about things that you may not have, you know? And when you're facing an illness - and a lot of people are - it's support and love that you crave."

Pope then appealed to others to look after their mental health.

"What would I tell me young self? It would be to enjoy life more, Marty, and also, to look after my mental health. I couldn't in the early days and even into my teenage years. I couldn't seem to enjoy the moment; I couldn't seem to enjoy the occasion. I couldn't seem to enjoy relationships and all these things.

"It's also about saying to the young people in the country - not even the young people out there - that are going through tough periods with their mental health or whatever it is - please get help, please get your life back on track.

"There was [sic] too many years wasted for me, Marty. Too many years wasted being overly anxious, being worried, what the future would unfold. The future will unfold how the future unfolds, you know? And just to let go of that sometimes and say, 'Look, hey, you're ok' - that's what I would have liked to have said myself."

"I don't want this to be downbeat," he stressed, "but it's my story and it's my life. I have loved my life in Ireland and will continue to do so. I just want people to live fulfilled, wonderful, happy, fun-filled lives - including myself! Why not?"

He said he was "tired of being the Brent Pope in a sense that everybody expects at this time".

"It's grinding and it's difficult, and for anybody out there going through long-term health problems or something like that, sometimes it just grinds you down.

"Like them, I have a tendency, I presume, to 'go' introverted. Because then I start saying, 'I'm not going to reach out to people. They've got their own worries'. You don't talk to friends as much as you should. I don't get on the phone. I think, 'Look, they're going through Covid. They're going through all these other problems. They don't want to hear about my various procedures or whatever like that or testing or whatever'.

"I should let people in more. It's beautiful to think there's people out there that'll listen to this and [becomes emotional] will care for me. It's a difficult time, it's a difficult time. I've found it really, really hard. Sometimes you can't keep a brave face."

Morrissey told Pope that he has "a nation that's rooting for you".

"I know at this stage there are people going through far worse than me," Pope replied.

"I know that, and I really sympathise with them. There's somebody going through something difficult and alone and I sympathise with all those people that are in similar situations. It's not to warrant cards or letters or anything like that - it's not. But it's a battle for me - that's all I'm probably saying."

"Look, I'm really thankful for the love and support of people over here," he concluded.

"Hopefully, there'll be a good few more years of the old 'Popemeister' and onwards and upwards. We're nearly out of it, so it'll be great."

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