British television actress Lynda Bellingham, famed for playing the matriarch of a Sunday roast-loving family in the Oxo advertisements of the 1980s to the 1990s, has revealed that she is suffering from terminal cancer and has only a few weeks to live.
National tabloid the Daily Mirror reports that Ms. Bellingham will give up chemotherapy treatment and has ‘chosen the date I will die’ but hopes to spend one more Christmas with her real-life family. For the sake of privacy and to help her come to terms with her diagnosis, Bellingham had opted to keep her terminal cancer a secret for the past year. She had been told by medical professionals that she had bowel cancer, but reassured her fans that the cancer would not be fatal.
Recently however, the beloved ‘Oxo mum’, now aged 66, announced that the tumours had spread from her intestines to her liver and lungs, meaning that the illness may now be impossible to treat. This has been despite an intensive and gruelling course of chemotherapy to try to stop the cancer’s advance.
Lynda said: “I’ve only got weeks to live – so I’ve picked the date I’ll die.”
“I would love to make one more Christmas, if possible, but I want to stop taking chemo around November in order to pass away by the end of January.
“It was such a relief to say those words.
“Please don’t think I am giving up for the sake of a few ulcers, it’s the fact my body has started to rot, and I promised myself as soon as that happened I would make a plan. I want my family to remember me whole.
“I want you all to remember me.”
In an interview with the Daily Mirror, she spoke at length about her decision to keep her illness confidential, but also speaking of her long and illustrious career, her family – including her husband Michael Pattemore – and how they came to terms with her devastating diagnosis.
“I would like to stop having chemo [chemotherapy] and let the natural way do its thing,” she added.
“It has been a rather fast deterioration over the past couple of weeks, and bizarrely it has been the desire to finish this book that has both spurned me on and finished me off.”, Bellingham said referring to a book she was working on.
This past Friday night, as her cancer became more aggressive, Bellingham said she was forced to pull out of starring in the play “A Passionate Woman” by Kay Mellor last summer as she began her chemotherapy course. She was diagnosed after her GP (general practitioner/family doctor) spotted something amiss during a routine health check-up. Just weeks later an oncologist told her she had cancer. Three days after receiving the bad news, Lynda Bellingham began treatments. She would have finished all her doses of chemotherapy by December last year. That same Friday, Bellingham also put out a message to her 38,000 Twitter followers to help gain much-needed moral support. She tweeted: “Hi guys back from my holiday. All revealed! I would appreciate your support x“
When first diagnosed Lynda described how she hugged the specialist after he told her she was not going to die. She was determined not to let the illness bring her down and vowed to ‘fight it with all her might’. She even described it as a ‘temporary blip’.
At the time she said: “It’s the mantra I’ve repeated every day to myself.”
Lynda has previously lost her sister, Barbara, to cancer in 2005. Then at the same time as she began chemotherapy, her close friend, actor Bernie Nolan, also died from the disease. The loss of her sister turned Lynda into a passionate supporter of cancer charities in the U.K. The most notable of the charities that Bellingham threw her high-profile weight behind were Cancer Research UK and Macmillan.
She writes on Macmillan’s website that she is “very cancer aware” and that her sister’s death taught her “never to be complacent when it comes to health.”
Poignantly, she writes: “Barbara’s diagnosis was terminal but still, she took all the treatment she was offered, I imagine for the sake of her dear husband David and their two children. The news must have broken their world.”
Lynda, whose Oxo ads ran from 1983 to 1999, said losing Barbara had given her a positive attitude towards life.
She said: “I have so much to thank her for…Her death made me want to live. I wanted to grab Michael and hold on to him tightly and never let him go.
“Even so, nothing quite prepares you for being told you have cancer.”
She now wishes to spend her remaining time with her husband Michael, a property developer and her two sons Robbie, 26, and Michael, 31.
Bowel cancer is a particularly aggressive form of the disease, but can be successfully treated if detected early enough. However, patients diagnosed in the advanced stages of bowel cancer generally have only a six per cent chance of making it out alive, with a maximum five-year lifespan. At this stage of the illness, there is currently no cure. The family of bowel cancers, including those that affect the colon, are the second most common type of the illness occurring in British women, after breast cancer. The latest available figures on the frequency of bowel cancer suggest that 16,187 people died of bowel cancer in Britain in 2012. Most victims of bowel cancer are above the age of sixty-five. It is believed that Bellingham has colorectal cancer, although previously she had refused to reveal the exact nature of her illness.
Lynda Bellingham is most remembered by the British public for playing the much-adored ‘Oxo mum’ in the Oxo adverts that ran from 1983 to 1999. Kindly and loved by her on-screen family as she brought them together for delicious roast dinners made with the Oxo stock cubes, she became an inspiration to a generation of mothers and was widely respected for her depiction of traditional British family values.
Born under the name of Meredith Lee Hughes in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1948, she was given up for adoption at the age of four months for family-related reasons. She was taken in by adoptive parents Donald and Ruth Bellingham who lived in Aston Abbotts in Buckinghamshire, England. She was educated in that county’s main town of Aylesbury before completing her acting training at the Central School of Speech and Drama.
She began her television career in the Seventies, appearing as a nurse in the little-known ITV hospital drama General Hospital, as well as a number of low-key British films. She also took on roles in the Doctor Who sci-fi series, and throughout the Eighties and Nineties, she appeared in several soap operas and televised dramas alongside her role as the Oxo mother. Bellingham also made appearances on stage. Despite playing a role as a ‘sweet mummy’ character, she had no qualms about playing villainous or gritty roles.
In 2007, Lynda Bellingham became a panellist on the light entertainment gossip show Loose Women. She was a regular feature on that programme until she departed in 2010. She also began delving into presenting, fronting her own daytime cookery show My Tasty Travels, and since last year, she also presents the ITV programme Country House Sunday. She also made an appearing on the televised ballroom dancing competition Strictly Come Dancing but was voted out by the fourth week. She also published an autobiography and has her own website showcasing her career at lyndabellingham.com.