Dame Esther Rantzen has confirmed today that she is suffering from lung cancer and is currently undergoing tests to find the best treatment.
The broadcaster and founder of charities Childline and The Silver Line told PA news agency she discovered she has the condition within the last few weeks.
She added that she decided to go public with the diagnosis after having to don disguises during her trips to hospital for tests.
Her long and varied career means the 82-year-old is among the nation’s most recognisable faces, thanks to her work in broadcast media as well as her extensive charity endeavours.
Dame Esther Rantzen (pictured in 1982 while presenting That’s Life!) is one of the nation’s best known broadcasters thanks to her hugely successful career
Dame Esther became a household name during her career at the BBC, building her reputation as a trailblazer for female broadcasters – not an easy task due to sexism.
She has previously described in the Times how the industry was seeing women’s roles as being ‘handmaidens’. She was told ‘cameramen…would resent being asked to work for a woman’.
Despite this, she has been hugely successful, and is best-known for presenting That’s Life! – a programme featuring a mix of investigations, topical issues and entertainment – between 1973 and 1994.
More recently she fronted the 2018 Channel 5 consumer advice show Esther Rantzen’s House Trap, and made a 2021 film for the channel entitled Living With Grief.
Dame Esther (pictured with her daughter Rebecca and grandchildren) has spoken of the regret she feels at leaving it later in life to start a family, having her first child aged 37
And in addition to her success as a journalist and broadcaster, Dame Esther is also the founder of children’s charity Childline, which she established in 1986.
And in 2012, she helped create The Silver Line, a confidential helpline designed to combat loneliness for older people’s.
During the global pandemic, Dame Esther warned that lockdown restrictions had created a daily battle against isolation and loneliness for pensioners, campaigning on behalf of the vulnerable.
She regularly wrote about her own experience of being unable to see her five grandchildren Benji, nine, Xander and Teddy seven, and Florence and Romilly, four.
The broadcaster and activist received a Damehood for services to children and older people in the 2015 New Years Honours List.
As well as her career success as a broadcaster, Dame Esther is known for her charity work, including starting Childline in the 80s (pictured here with Camilla, then Duchess of Cornwall, as the pair attend ICAP Charity Day in London in 2018)
Despite her career success, Dame Esther has previously spoken out about her regrets – notably choosing to start a family later in life.
Writing for MailOnline when she was 76-years-old, and her grandson Benji was four, the broadcaster said: ‘By starting my family so late I am very much an older grandmother. I never wanted a long life. I always thought I would take what fate hands out to me. But now I value every second I’m given, and long for more. And for the first time I wish I’d planned my life differently.
‘Millions of women made the same decision, it’s an integral part of the Sixties revolution which opened up a new world of opportunity to young women. So my generation made different choices from our own parents.’
She had her first child aged 37, with husband Desmond Wilcox, after the couple had been together for 10 years.
Loss: Dame Esther’s documentary maker husband Desmond Wilcox died in 2000, something she has admitted struggling to come to terms with (pictured together renewing their vows in 1999)
Documentary maker Desmond died in 2000, aged just 69-years-old, something Esther has admitted struggling to come to terms with, saying ‘our children lost him far, far too early’.
Speaking about her diagnosis in a statement to PA news agency today, Dame Esther said: ‘In the last few weeks I have discovered that I am suffering from lung cancer which has now spread.’
‘At the moment I am undergoing various tests, to assess the best treatment.’
She added: ‘I have decided not to keep this secret any more because I find it difficult to skulk around various hospitals wearing an unconvincing disguise, and because I would rather you heard the facts from me.’
Esther continued by thanking her family, friends and colleagues ‘who have made my life so joyful.’
‘At the age of 82, this diagnosis has prompted me to look back over the years, and I want to express my profound thanks to everyone who has made my life so joyful, filled with fun, and with inspiration.
News: Dame Esther Rantzen has said she is remaining ‘optimistic’ after revealing she has been diagnosed with lung cancer
‘First and foremost my family. My three children Miriam, Rebecca and Joshua have been the most wonderful support, company, and source of love and laughter and I am deeply grateful to them.
‘My friends have been amazing and have created memories which sustain me and give me strength.
‘My colleagues with whom I have worked, and continue to work with in broadcasting, journalism, the voluntary sector, and in many other organisations have been a constant pleasure, and have amazed me with their tolerance of my wild ideas and awful jokes.
‘I have been continuously inspired by the courageous children, older people and viewers who have trusted me with their life stories. I have always tried to live up to that trust.
‘As I am sure you will understand, while I am awaiting the results of the tests, I am unable to answer questions. Thanks to the extraordinary skills of the medical profession there are wonderful new treatments, so I am remaining optimistic.’