Dame Esther Rantzen has said she is remaining “optimistic” after revealing she has been diagnosed with lung cancer.
The 82-year-old broadcaster, long-time activist and founder of charities Childline and The Silver Line, confirmed the news on Sunday.
Dame Esther said in a statement to the PA news agency: “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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
Dame Esther, who was a trailblazer for female broadcasters, became a household name during her career at the BBC.
She is best-known for presenting That’s Life! – a programme featuring a mix of investigations, topical issues and entertainment – from 1973 to 1994.
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.
The charity offers counselling and support for children and young people in the UK up until the age of 19, and became part of the The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) in 2006.
Following the news of Dame Esther’s cancer diagnosis, NSPCC chief executive Sir Peter Wanless said: “I speak on behalf of Childline’s volunteers, staff and supporters in sending love and best wishes to Dame Esther Rantzen and her family.
“Esther’s tireless commitment to Childline and the wider NSPCC over the years is truly inspiring and the positive impact that’s she had on children’s live is unimaginable.
“No matter what, she has always been here for children and young people and likewise, we are here to support her during this challenging time.”
Dame Esther also set up The Silver Line in 2013, a charity which supports elderly people in the UK who are battling loneliness.
In 2021 Dame Esther received the lifetime achievement award at the Women of the Year Awards for her charity work.
She was made a DBE in 2015 for services to children and older people through ChildLine and The Silver Line.