Fiona Phillips ‘hugely touched’ by support after revealing Alzheimer’s diagnosis
TV presenter Fiona Phillips is “hugely touched” by the support she has received after revealing she has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, her representative has said.
Lorraine Kelly and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper were among the famous faces who sent their best wishes to the former GMTV presenter, who announced in Wednesday’s Daily Mirror that she had been diagnosed more than a year ago with Alzheimer’s disease.
The 62-year-old told the newspaper she initially had “brain fog and anxiety”, but originally thought she was experiencing menopause symptoms.
Phillips (pictured), who is an Alzheimer’s Society ambassador and a Daily Mirror columnist, said she had long feared being given the diagnosis as the disease has “ravaged” her family – with her mother, father, grandparents and uncle all having the illness.
Following the outpouring of online support, a representative for the TV presenter told the PA news agency: “She is of course hugely touched by the outpouring of support that she’s received at this extremely difficult time.”
Kelly, who also worked on GMTV, said on Twitter that “as expected” Phillips is dealing with her “shattering” diagnosis with “courage and optimism”.
The host of ITV’s Lorraine added: “She’s a good, kind soul and I pray the treatment works and results in a massive breakthrough for everyone dealing with this hellish disease. Sending her and her family all my love.”
On Wednesday’s episode of Good Morning Britain (GMB), host Susanna Reid said: “We are all sending our huge best wishes this morning to Fiona Phillips, well known to all of you as the former presenter of GMTV, for more than a decade.
“Just a hugely popular presenter and journalist, we all know and love her, she has also been an incredible advocate to family’s living with Alzheimer’s.”
Phillips is taking part in a clinical trial which has a new drug that could slow the effects of the disease, the paper reported.
Her husband Martin Frizell, editor of ITV’s flagship programme This Morning, said University College Hospital in London, which aims to revolutionise future treatment, could be giving her “the real drug or a placebo”.
“It’s been weeks now and I like to think her condition is stabilising but I am too close to know really, that could just be my wishful thinking,” Frizell added.
Journalist Phillips, who anchored GMTV for more than a decade and competed on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing in 2005, also explained she was sharing the news to reduce the stigma around the disease.
She said: “There is still an issue with this disease that the public thinks of old people, bending over a stick, talking to themselves.
“But I’m still here, getting out and about, meeting friends for coffee, going for dinner with Martin and walking every day.”
Phillips also said that she was in “total shock” after the doctor told her she had Alzheimer’s.
Frizell said: “I just felt sick. We both sat in silence. There was no funny line to make this go away. Nothing smart to say. Nothing.”
In the UK, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, which is the name for a group of symptoms associated with an ongoing decline of brain function, according to the NHS website.
Ms Cooper also said she was sending “very much love” to Phillips, who introduced Alan Johnson at the 2009 Labour Party conference.
Ms Cooper wrote on Twitter: “Huge admiration for her strength & care for others in speaking out like this on something so tough.”
Kate Lee, chief executive at the Alzheimer’s Society, praised Phillips’ decision to share her diagnosis, which raised “much-needed awareness of dementia”.
“Our thoughts are with our ambassador Fiona Phillips and her family following the announcement that she’s living with dementia,” Ms Lee said.
“Fiona has frequently spoken out about her parents’ experiences of dementia, and her support of Alzheimer’s Society has been hugely impactful and greatly appreciated.
“Sharing such personal news publicly raises much-needed awareness of dementia and we are extremely grateful to Fiona.
“We are here to offer our support to Fiona and her family and to everyone affected by dementia.”
Phillips has been a long campaigner for Alzheimer’s awareness and in 2012 took part in a Department of Health and Social Care campaign to encourage families to have a difficult conversation with their loved ones about the condition and seek help.
Her 2009 Channel 4 documentary Dispatches: Mum, Dad, Alzheimer’s And Me also gave an insight into her acting as a carer for her family.
Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “We’re sending our love and support to Fiona and her family following her announcement that she’s living with Alzheimer’s disease.
“It takes such courage to go public with a diagnosis and Fiona knows better than most just how much good that can do.
“Awareness is vital and Fiona’s bravery will help untold people who are going through their own dementia journeys.
“Fiona’s been a friend of Alzheimer’s Research UK for well over a decade, and her support has shone such a valuable spotlight on the importance of research in overcoming the diseases that cause dementia.
“There are around 70,800 people with dementia in the UK who, like Fiona, are under 65, and we’re determined to find a cure to end the heartbreak it causes.
“And we’re so grateful to Fiona for standing with us in our mission.”
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