Lorraine Kelly has said she is sending her love to “good, kind soul” Fiona Phillips, who has announced she has Alzheimer’s disease.
Former GMTV presenter Phillips told Wednesday’s The Daily Mirror that her family have been “ravaged” by the condition with her mother, father, grandparents and uncle all having the illness.
According to the paper, the 62-year-old was diagnosed more than a year ago after having “brain fog and anxiety” and originally thought she was experiencing menopause symptoms.
Phillips, who is an Alzheimer’s Society ambassador and a Daily Mirror columnist, said she felt “more angry than anything else” when she found out.
Lorraine 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.”
Phillips is taking part in a clinic 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 aim 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.
Shadow home secretary Yvette 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.”