Catherine Scott: Why Lynda will leave us a valuable legacy

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The death of Lynda Bellingham at the age of 66 from colon cancer has led to tributes from friends, colleagues and members of the actress’s family.

The suddenness of her death, just a couple of weeks after she publicly talked about her decision to stop chemotherapy because it was adversely affecting the quality of the life she had left, exacerbated the grief felt by many.

Not only was Lynda Bellingham a fine character actress, she was “mum” to a generation to whom she appeared for 16 years in the Oxo adverts which she never quite managed to shake off.

With that famous smile and comforting demeanour, many people felt they actually knew her.

While her acting and television presenting will be part of her legacy, Lynda Bellingham leaves a much more important legacy.

Diagnosed with colon cancer last July she never shied away from talking about her illness and her eventual decision to stop treatment.

Her hope had been to survive to have one last Christmas with her husband and sons but that was not to be.

However what will last way beyond Christmas is the inspiration she has left for other cancer sufferers and their families. While she was unable to offer hope, she showed true bravery in her decision to take back control of her life, even what little in the end she had left. In making the decision she also acknowledged the effect this could have on her family and those left behind.

But what she also did was raise awareness of a disease which, due to its very nature, people are not always keen to talk about.

Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer Every year 41,500 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer which equates to a diagnosis every 15 minutes and around 16,000 people die of the disease.

It’s poor prognosis is often down to late diagnosis as people are embarrassed to talk about changes in their bowel habits. We have to break this taboo and it is only by talking about it openly, like Lynda Bellingham, that we will start to get this killer under control, as we have many other cancers.

However, it is not just embarrassment which is leading to early death.

While everyone acknowledges that access to best treatment and care is critical, Bowel Cancer UK says currently in the UK it can be patchy.

“Some people are dying early because of late diagnosis and variations in treatment and care,” says Deborah Alsina, chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK. “This must be addressed urgently.” What more fitting tribute could there be to Lynda than an end to this post code lottery?