TV presenter Fiona Phillips has revealed she has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 62.
The presenter and Daily Mirror columnist said the disease has “ravaged” her family and she had long feared being given the diagnosis.
According to the Mirror, Phillips was diagnosed more than a year ago and is undergoing trials for a new drug that could slow the effects of the disease.
Phillips, who is an Alzheimer’s Society ambassador, told the Mirror: “This disease has ravaged my family and now it has come for me.
“And all over the country there are people of all different ages whose lives are being affected by it – it’s heartbreaking.
“I just hope I can help find a cure which might make things better for others in the future.”
As well as her column in the national newspaper, Phillips anchored GMTV for more than a decade from 1997. She also competed in the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing in 2005.
She is married to Martin Frizell, editor of ITV’s flagship programme This Morning, who also worked on GMTV.
Phillips told the Mirror that, despite fearing she would one day be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the news was still a “gut-punching, shuddering shock”.
The presenter said she feels “more angry than anything else” due to the disease having already affected her family life.
“My poor mum was crippled with it, then my dad, my grandparents, my uncle. It just keeps coming back for us,” she said.
Though she has kept the news private for 18 months, Phillips said she has decided to share her story to help end the stigma around Alzheimer’s.
“There is still an issue with this disease that the public thinks of old people, bending over a stick, talking to themselves,” she said.
“But I’m still here, getting out and about, meeting friends for coffee, going for dinner with Martin and walking every day.”
She is taking part in clinical trials at University College Hospital in London, which aim to revolutionise future treatment.
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.”
Former GMTV presenter Lorraine Kelly said 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.”
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.”