Laila Morse: Wendy Richard saved my life
Laila Morse isn't sure she would be alive today if it wasn't for her late 'EastEnders' co-star Wendy Richard.
The 76-year-old soap star - who portrays 'Big' Mo Harris in the BBC show - was diagnosed with breast cancer 21 years ago, and she will forever be grateful to Wendy (Pauline Fowler), who died in 2009 aged 65, for urging her to get a lump checked out.
She said: "I found this lump and I thought: ‘Ah, it can’t be much.’ So I went into work and I told Wendy Richard and she said: ‘Go to the doctor, I don’t like the sound of that. I’m going on holiday, so when I come back the first thing I’m gonna do is ring you up and find out if you went.’
"Anyway, I didn’t go. When she came back, she rang me and said: 'Have you been to the doctor’s?' and I went: 'Erm, yeah, he didn’t say much.'
"That’s all I said and I thought: 'I ought to go,' so I did. He wrote a note and within two weeks I’d had the test done, a mammogram, and I had breast cancer.
"Then my sister got it and then my friend got it - and then Wendy died from the second lot of cancer she had.
"And I think if it hadn’t been for her, I don’t think I would be here today really."
Laila is now hoping she can encourage others to go and get checked out if they find anything unusual on their bodies, and that is why she is taking part in this year's 'Strictly the Real Full Monty' charity strip.
She added to the Daily Mirror newspaper: "I’m doing this so everybody knows to get it checked up."
Professional dancers and husband and wife James and Ola Jordan, Blue singer Duncan James, model Christine McGuinness, Olympian Colin Jackson, musical theatre and 'Loose Women' star Brenda Edwards, TV presenter Martin Roberts and 'Love Island' favourites Teddy Soares and Demi Jones are also taking part.
Ashley Banjo, who will be leading the line-up of stars, said: "I'm so excited to be working with a new brilliant, bold and brave line-up of celebrities for 'Strictly' the 'Real Full Monty'.
"It's going to be our biggest musical dance extravaganza yet and we are determined to get the message out there that early cancer checks in intimate areas save lives.
"So don't forget to check your bits and baubles this Christmas!"