Dame Esther Rantzen feels 'optimistic' after lung cancer diagnosis

The Childline founder and BBC broadcaster expressed her 'profound thanks to everyone who has made my life so joyful'


British journalist Esther Rantzen arrives to attend a service of Thanksgiving for the life and work of late British singer Dame Vera Lynn, at Westminster Abbey, in central London, on March 21, 2022. (Photo by Hollie Adams / AFP) (Photo by HOLLIE ADAMS/AFP via Getty Images)

Dame Esther Rantzen has said she is “remaining optimistic” after revealing she has been diagnosed with lung cancer.

The 82-year-old broadcaster, activistist and charity founder of ChildLine and The Silver Line, confirmed on Sunday she was having tests to assess the best treatment for her condition.

In her statement, she said: “In the last few weeks I have discovered that I am suffering from lung cancer which has now spread.

“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 became a household name and a pioneer for female journalists during her career. She was a presenter on That's Life from 1973 to 1994. The series, which featured light-hearted items alongside serious investigations, regularly attracted 20 million viewers.

In 1986 she founded ChildLine, a counselling and support charity for children and young people, and in 2013, The Silver Line, which helps elderly people in the UK battling loneliness.

She was made a DBE in 2015 for her services to children and older people.

Fans of Dame Esther have shared their condolences online. One wrote: “Dame Esther Rantzen is more than a living legend. She is such an amazing force for good. My thoughts & prayers are with her & I wish her all the best for a speedy recovery. We need Fabulous people like her.”

Another said: “Very sad news about Esther. Her statement is typically thoughtful & humorous. Humorous despite challenging times she is facing.I wish her & her family well. And thank her for her activism shining a light on the vulnerable & otherwise unheard, young & old”.

Gyles Brandreth posted he was “Raising a glass to Dame Esther Rantzen who has shared news of her cancer diagnosis today. She’s brave & brilliant - she’s fun & funny too - &, having known her for 50 plus years, believe me: always wonderfully positive. She’s done so much good in her life: she’s just the best.”

George Takei, who appeared on the reality show I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here with Dame Esther in 2008, told Good Morning Britain: “I love her dearly. She was a charming and interesting conversationalist, and I was shocked to hear of her cancer diagnosis.”

“Esther and I were the senior members of that team in the jungle and we were the early risers,” he said. “We were the earliest in the morning and we got the fire started, the campfire, and boiled the hot water and began the day chatting over white tea [and] hot water in the jungle.

He added: “If you’re watching Esther, I send you my very best wishes. Please stay well and I’ll try to visit you while I’m here in London.”

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