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ACTOR TIMOTHY Spall has revealed how his wife helped him beat cancer after he was diagnosed as he was about to leave for one of the movie industry’s most prestigious events.

The star was told that he had leukaemia on the day he was meant to fly to Cannes, with his wife Shane, in 1996, to celebrate Secrets & Lies winning the film festival’s Palme d’Or.

Mr Spall, 57, who plays JMW Turner in the new Mike Leigh film about the British painter, told Radio Times magazine how his wife helped him.

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The father-of-three added: “You never know what is going to happen to you in life. I’m lucky because I have Shane. She’s my Rock of Gibraltar. We were always a very close family, but particularly when I was ill and she stood sentinel. We were in it together. I do believe in the power of love.”

Mr Spall, who is being tipped to get an Oscar nomination and won the best actor award at Cannes this year for his role in Mr Turner, said of his wife: “She wasn’t having it.

“One day, after the doctors thought I’d relapsed and I was about to have a bone marrow transplant, I watched Shane pegging up the washing in the garden. She was just carrying on.”

He added: “Surviving a serious illness gives you an understanding that life is very much about other people. I don’t think Turner, a genius who was obsessed with his work, did that as well as he wanted to. He tried to consider other people, but he found it incredibly hard. I’m lucky. I’ve learnt that there’s no point in just living for yourself.”