Dame Esther Rantzen has thanked well-wishers for lifting her spirits after she revealed her lung cancer diagnosis, saying: “I never dreamt I would receive such extraordinarily kind messages”.
The 82-year-old broadcaster and founder of charities Childline and The Silver Line said she is undergoing tests to assess the best treatment.
She is “remaining optimistic” due to new treatments developed by the “extraordinary skills of the medical profession”, she added.
A number of famous faces and charities have shared messages of support on social media and spoken of Dame Esther’s achievements.
Dame Esther told the PA news agency: “I never dreamt I would receive such extraordinarily kind messages, some from close family, friends and colleagues, some from viewers and readers I’ve never met, some from people I am deeply fond of but haven’t seen for ages – and so many wicked memories of jokes we enjoyed together which I cannot deny.”
Dame Esther said she has “shed a few tears” over some of the reminiscences but has laughed “much, much more”.
She added: “So thank you for lifting my spirits, especially with personal anecdotes from people who have been helped by charities such as Childline and The Silver Line and stories from friends who have experienced really effective cancer treatments.
“Over the past day I have discovered that if you do decide to share your story, as I did, you will be amazed and delighted how kind people are – and sometimes slightly shocked how accurate their memories of your misdemeanours can be. Thank you, everyone!”
Dame Esther became a household name at the BBC and is perhaps 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, she set up Childline in 1986.
The service offers counselling and support for children and young people in the UK up to the age of 19. It became part of the the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) in 2006.
NSPCC chief executive Sir Peter Wanless is among those offering support to Dame Esther, describing her “tireless commitment” to Childline and the NSPCC over the years as “truly inspiring”.
On Sunday, Dame Esther said she had found trying to disguise her appearance while in hospital difficult.
She said: “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.”
Dame Esther set up The Silver Line, a charity supporting lonely elderly people in the UK, in 2013.
In 2021, she received the lifetime achievement gong 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.