When broadcaster Peter Williams' wife Cecile began having difficulty with breathlessness, the pair knew it was time to see a doctor. But neither of them could have predicted the eventual diagnosis – advanced ovarian cancer.
"It was discovered she had quite a bit of fluid in her lungs," recalls Peter (61). "That fluid was drained, but it was found to contain a lot of malignant cells. It was then a case of finding out where the primary cancer was. It was certainly a surprise when we discovered it was ovarian."
After being diagnosed in January of 1996 and undergoing surgery and several rounds of chemotherapy, Cecile passed away that November at just 42 years of age.
"Once she had that diagnosis from the gynaecologist, they performed a very major operation in the February – but it wasn't enough, and he told me as much straight afterwards," says Peter, whose three children, Nicolas, Renee and Reuben, were teens at the time.
Now, nearly 20 years after her passing, Peter is honouring Cecile by becoming an ambassador for the Gynaecological Cancer Foundation, although he laments that little has changed in detecting these forms of cancer since his wife's death.
"This group of diseases is very, very difficult to diagnose early," says Peter. "There's no reliable screening processes in place, besides cervical smears, which are great for detecting abnormalities in the cervix. By the time ovarian cancer is discovered, it's often too late."
It's why Peter is behind this cause. He's urging women to be aware of their bodies and seek medical advice if they spot any abnormalities in their health.
"We've got pretty good at talking about breast cancer, but gynaecological cancers are in a part of the body that for many is taboo."
The TV One news presenter is currently on a six-week holiday with his wife Sara, enjoying a cruise of the Danube before spending two weeks in Renee's adopted home of London. Peter is particularly delighted to be visiting his only daughter, as she's just announced her second child is due in December.
"The greatest extension of Cecile is our three children and grandchildren," says Peter. "She was a fantastic mother and would be delighted that they have all done so well."
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