Dame Barbara Windsor’s on-screen son Ross Kemp has spoken of his love for the ex-EastEnders star, after it was revealed she has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
The actress, 80, had kept the devastating news secret after she and husband Scott Mitchell, 55, were first told in 2014 – but her symptoms have grown worse in recent weeks.
Ross Kemp, who played Peggy Mitchell’s (Dame Barbara) son Grant in Albert Square, wrote on Twitter: "Very proud of Scott and Barbara for speaking openly about Barbara’s diagnosis.
"I hope by talking openly it will make it easier for others to talk about this dreadful disease."
He added: "I love both Barbara and Scott very much."
In an emotional interview with The Sun, Mr Mitchell said he wanted to set the record straight amid rumours in showbusiness circles about his wife’s deteriorating health.
He said: "Since her 80th birthday last August, a definite continual confusion has set in, so it's becoming a lot more difficult for us to hide.
"I’m doing this because I want us to be able to go out and, if something isn’t quite right, it will be OK because people will now know that she has Alzheimer’s and will accept it for what it is."
I hope by talking openly it will make it easier for others to talk about this dreadful disease.
The star, famous for her roles in nine Carry On films and for playing pub landlady Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders, was given the heartbreaking diagnosis on April 22 2014.
After shedding some tears, her first words were: "I’m so sorry," Mr Mitchell added.
A small circle of friends who had begun to notice her occasional confusion were told shortly after the diagnosis, he said. But he stopped the news from going public after his wife struggled to come to terms with it.
He stressed that revealing the news any earlier would have been detrimental to her health.
Mr Mitchell told the paper he first noticed symptoms of the condition in 2009, just before Dame Barbara left EastEnders for the first time, when she began finding it difficult to learn her lines.
She underwent a series of mental agility tests, a brain scan and a lumbar puncture, before the couple’s worst fears were confirmed.
By 2016, her forgetfulness and confusion were getting worse, and it was agreed she would leave EastEnders for the final time, Mr Mitchell said.
Sending my love & support to the fabulous Dame Barbara Windsor, one of my favourite people. Alzheimer’s is a horrible thing. She & Scott going public about it like this is a typically gutsy decision by one of the gutsiest ladies I know. We’re all rooting for you, Babs! pic.twitter.com/Zsn85yn6DF
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) May 10, 2018
My beautiful dear friend Dame Barbara Windsor is an amazing woman and I will love her and wonderful Scott for ever. We’ve been friends for so many years and they are strong and brave together. Sending so much love and thanks for all you do @alzheimerssoc
— Gaby Roslin (@GabyRoslin) May 10, 2018
Alzheimer’s Research UK director Tim Parry praised the decision to go public with the devastating news.
"Alzheimer’s is the most common disease behind dementia, accounting for around two thirds of cases of the condition in older people," he said.
TV presenter Gaby Roslin wrote on Twitter: "My beautiful dear friend Dame Barbara Windsor is an amazing woman and I will love her and wonderful Scott for ever.
"We’ve been friends for so many years and they are strong and brave together."
Has your family been affected by Alzheimer's? Share your stories on our Facebook page @EntertainmentDailyFix.