He recovered sufficiently to write a book tackling the subject two years after but the disease returned to take his life at the age of 62.
Ripley played eight times for the Lions on the historic 1974 tour of South Africa, when Britain and Ireland's elite returned home unbeaten with 21 wins from 22 games as they beat the Springboks 3-0 in the Test series.
The Rosslyn Park stalwart scored an impressive five tries for the Lions and was a popular tourist. He received an OBE for services to sport in the Queen's Birthday Honours and was a winner of the BBC's Superstars television series 30 years ago.
Ripley won 24 caps for his country and played his last game for his club when he was 41 years old. He was a more than useful track athlete, competing at a high standard over 400 metres, and just missed out on a place in the Boat Race in his 40s.
He became a world veteran indoor rowing champion after his rugby career had ended.