Debbie McGee has revealed that she has secretly been battling breast cancer and underwent an operation last week to remove two tumours.
The TV star, 60, said that she believes the heartbreaking loss of her husband Paul Daniels, who died aged 77 from a brain tumour three years ago, triggered the disease.
Debbie told the Sun that she felt ‘lost’ battling the disease without Paul, after doctors discovered cancerous tissues during a routine breast screening.
Secret battle: Debbie McGee has revealed that she has secretly been battling breast cancer and underwent an operation last week to remove two tumours
The former magician’s assistant said that the process ‘scared her to death’, and had been mourning the loss of Paul for around two and a half years when she was hit with the diagnosis.
Discussing her diagnosis, Debbie said: ‘Stress, I think caused mine. I’ve never been through the stress I’ve been through since I lost Paul. Grief hits you in so many ways you’re not expecting. It’s not all about sadness.’
Debbie revealed that she has a friend whose husband died four years ago and has also been diagnosed with cancer, she said that they both believe that stress caused their cancer.
Tragic: The TV star, 60, said that she believes the heartbreaking loss of her husband Paul Daniels, who died aged 77 from a brain tumour three years ago, triggered the disease
The radio personality’s cancer was caught at an early stage in October and following her operation to remove the lumps she said she feels incredibly lucky to have received the all-clear.
Debbie said that she has received regular mammograms every two years but didn’t ever consider that she would be told she had cancer.
She added that doctors mentioned a full mastectomy which would have involved taking flesh from her thighs to reconstruct.
‘Lost’: Debbie told the Sun that she felt ‘lost’ battling the disease without Paul, after doctors discovered cancerous tissues during a routine breast screening
Debbie, who was married to Paul for 28 years, said that she felt ‘vulnerable’ and alone without Paul, adding that it was much harder to deal with, without him.
The Strictly contestant, who took part with Giovanni Pernice in 2017, said that thinking about how Paul would have dealt with the diagnosis gave her the confidence to carry on.
Speaking about her relationship with Paul, she said: ‘When you’ve been with somebody as long as I was with Paul, you know, you were so intertwined in each other’s lives and he taught me so much.’
Giving her strength: The Strictly contestant, who took part with Giovanni Pernice in 2017, said that thinking about how Paul would have dealt with the diagnosis gave her the confidence to carry on
Ahead of the surgery, Debbie said that the idea of saying goodbye to her famous figure terrified her, after doctors recommended a mastectomy.
Although she admitted she felt like she was being vain, she worried about how she would look and whether she would be left with a ‘lumpy bosom’.
However after doctors removed her bandages she said that she couldn’t even see where the surgeons had cut her.
Debbie is a fitness fanatic and said even during Paul’s illness she continued to work out and has been struggling with not doing anything during her rest period, which will last six weeks.
Soulmates: Debbie and Paul were married for 28 years before he tragically died in 2016 (pictured in 1985, three years before their wedding)
She is now urging women to attended regular mammogram and smear tests, stressing the importance of catching the condition as early as possible.
Debbie has previously spoken about her struggles after losing Paul, which hit her when she stopped busying herself with day-to-day life.
‘It didn’t come immediately after Strictly,’ she recalls. ‘I did panto afterwards — God knows how I got through that, but I did. Then I went on tour with Strictly. Then around March — a difficult month because Paul died in March, his birthday is in March, our anniversary is in March — I got home, and I just stopped.
‘I didn’t want to get out of bed. I couldn’t make a cup of tea. Part of it must have been sheer physical exhaustion, but there was more to it. I changed. My brain had changed. I’ve always been the most optimistic person. If I’m feeling low I can look in the mirror and say: “Come on, Debbie, let’s do this. Put on your make-up and smile.” Suddenly I couldn’t.
Supportive: Debbie is now urging women to attended regular mammogram and smear tests, stressing the importance of catching the condition as early as possible
‘I got anxious, in a way I have never been anxious before. I started to worry about everyone around me getting ill, dying. We really had had a terrible run of ill-health in the family.
‘It wasn’t just Paul. My dad died not long before Paul. My nephew was diagnosed with cancer. My niece’s husband died — of a brain tumour, too. He was in his 20s.
‘Suddenly, I started to think: “What if my mum got cancer? What if I got ill?” You start worrying about what might happen. Catastrophising, really.
‘It wasn’t prolonged — there was a week where it was particularly intense — but I was still shocked by it, because it wasn’t me. I was having moments where I wasn’t looking forward to the future, which I never had before.’
There were physical manifestations, too. Strictly gave her a waistline the envy of a 20-year-old, but in the weeks afterwards, even when she wasn’t training manically, she lost a worrying amount of weight.
‘I went down to seven stone. I looked anorexic — my face was gaunt, my boobs went. But I couldn’t put on weight. Friends thought I wasn’t eating, but I was. It was just the grief. I’m back on track now; I’ve put that half-stone back on.’
Had she hurled herself into Strictly too early?
‘No, because it lit up my life. But I suppose the grief was still there, but pushed down. It had to come out. I’d been in that Strictly bubble, surrounded by people for so long, then suddenly I was on my own. Everyone kept saying “It will hit you” and it did.’
For the first time, she saw a grief counsellor. And the biggest lesson learned? ‘That it doesn’t necessarily get easier. In some ways it gets harder. Grief isn’t just about missing the person.
‘Grieving causes anxieties you didn’t have before. You change, as a person. I always thought I was strong, I could handle anything, surmount anything. I am getting there again, back to the old Debbie, but it’s taking time.’
Struggling: Debbie has previously spoken about her struggles after losing Paul, which hit her when she stopped busying herself with day-to-day life