Scott Mitchell says his 80-year-old wife has kept the devastating news secret since they were first told in 2014 – but that her symptoms have grown worse in recent weeks.
In an emotional interview with the Sun, Mitchell said he wanted to set the record straight amid rumours in showbusiness circles about her deteriorating health.
The star, famous for her roles in nine ‘Carry On’ films and for playing pub landlord Peggy Mitchell in ‘EastEnders’, was given the heartbreaking diagnosis on 22 April 2014.
After shedding some tears, her first words were, “I’m so sorry”, 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.
Mitchell told the newspaper 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, Mitchell said. She has now retired from charity work as well as acting, he added.
Barbara’s last scenes as Peggy Mitchell aired in aired in May 2016. Her final episode featured plenty of tear-jerker moments and in a touching twist, Pam St Clement reprised her role as Pat Butcher.