King Charles breaks silence on cancer diagnosis and gives rare insight into treatment

Charles talks to patient Asha Millan
King Charles meets with patient Asha Millan during a visit to University College Hospital Macmillan Cancer Centre, London -Credit:PA

King Charles met cancer patients during his first day back to royal duties and bravely told them how he felt receiving his own diagnosis.

Charles candidly described the experience of being told he had the disease when he visited University College Hospital Macmillan Cancer Centre in London on Tuesday with Queen Camilla to learn about the latest treatments and chat with staff providing the pioneering care.

He also reassured those who asked about the state of his health, saying: "I'm well" during his first public-facing event since being diagnosed in early February and also talked of his shock at receiving the news he had cancer earlier this year.

The King went on impromptu walkabouts meeting staff at the centre who had stopped to catch a glimpse of the couple. He sympathised with one cancer patient as she received her chemotherapy with many others in a day unit, telling Lesley Woodbridge, 63 as he held her hand: "It's always a bit of a shock isn't it, when they tell you." Charles went on to say: "I've got to have my treatment this afternoon as well."

King Charles has been receiving treatment for an undisclosed form of cancer since early February, and on Friday it was announced he would be returning to public-facing duties.

The development indicated the positive progress Charles is making after almost three months of cancer care as an outpatient. When quizzed about his health by one patient during the visit, he replied: "I'm all right thank you very much, not too bad." Asha Millen, 60, who is receiving chemotherapy for bone marrow cancer, chatted to the King as he met patients in the chemotherapy day unit. She asked Charles about his own health, saying: "I said 'how are you?' and he said 'I'm well'."

Charles later asked one male patient whether he was using a cold cap a device aimed at preventing hair loss during chemotherapy and the King was heard to say it can 'help'. The King and Queen both asked patients they spoke to about side-effects, particularly loss of appetite and taste, and tiredness.

Camilla left her husband for a few minutes and made her way to side cubicles, where she spoke to patients about their treatment. "There's a real feeling of calm here," she said to Judy Parkinson. "Everybody in the same boat, everyone can identify."

Patting the 69-year-old's arm as she left, Camilla said: "I wish you the very best of luck, it's a huge pleasure to meet you." Mrs Parkinson, who laughed as she heard the moment described as "two queens having a chat", said: "I like it when people speak to you eye to eye. That's what my mum taught me, and that's what she did. Those were genuine questions being asked."

Earlier, Charles looked emotional as he made his long-awaited return to public-facing duties on arriving at the centre. He has been a patron of Macmillan Cancer Support for more than 20 years - and it has now been revealed that he is now also a patron of Cancer Research UK, which is "dedicated to saving lives through research, influence and information". The visit was aimed at raising awareness of the importance of early cancer diagnosis and the couple heard about innovative research into the disease.

As the new patron of Cancer Research UK, the King also met Cancer Research UK's chief clinician Professor Charlie Swanton, who has led a project called TRACERx tackling lung and other cancers. Aside from attending an Easter Sunday church service, the King has until now stayed away from public events. Buckingham Palace gave an update on Friday on the King's condition and his return to public-facing duties.

The Palace said the King was still undergoing cancer treatment and it was too early to say how long it would continue. But a Palace spokesperson said: "... His Majesty's medical team are very encouraged by the progress made so far and remain positive about the King's continued recovery".

Charles' diary of forthcoming events will not be a full summer programme, with his attendance announced nearer the time "subject to doctors' advice", according to the Palace. The warmer summer months provide an ideal opportunity to host events outside, which will minimise the King's risk of picking up illnesses from other people in confined spaces.

In January, Charles spent three nights in hospital for a procedure on an enlarged prostate, during which his undisclosed cancer was discovered.

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