EastEnders star Babs proud to fly flag for cancer support at new Whittington centre

After playing Peggy Mitchell on EastEnders, the first character ever to have cancer on the popular soap, Barbara Windsor is well-qualified to talk about the disease.

The TV and film star opened a new cancer Information and Support Centre at the Whittington Hospital in Magdala Avenue, Archway, last Thursday, and spoke of her pride at portraying the pioneering storyline.

The Macmillan Cancer Support-funded “pod” will provide emotional support and information to people with cancer or those who have been affected - including family, carers and friends.

The centre opened in October last year and has already helped around 200 people ahead of its official launch this week.

Ms Windsor, whose character Peggy in EastEnders famously had breast cancer, officially cut the ribbon to launch the new centre.

She said: “I’m very proud I played that storyline and very honoured to be able to open this centre.

“It was the very first case of a main character having cancer on a soap. I studied it and chatted to people, I really had to do my homework. In some ways it was ideal to choose a character like Peggy Mitchell for the role, she was well known and some people knew me from the Carry On films.

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“Cancer affects one in three of us and having access to information and support can make a huge difference – people need to be able to talk about cancer.”

Reminiscing about her own memories of the Whittington Hospital, the actress said: “It’s really funny, on my way from the East End I used to pass this hospital on the way to elocution school.

“And I always had some theatricality in me, it made me think of Dick Whittington.”

The centre will offer easy access to Macmillan booklets about treatment, but will also give people the opportunity to chat with professionals.

Services offered aim to improve the physical and emotional wellbeing of patients, including a masterclass named Look Good Feel Better.

Lucy Booth, a patient receiving cancer treatment at the hospital, said: “It’s exciting to have an established centre where people can come and talk, it’s brilliant.”

She added: “I think it’s great Barbara Windsor is on board, the more awareness the better.”

Macmillan service manager Tracey Palmer, who runs the new facility, said: “Our new centre will help to ensure that no one has to face cancer alone.

“This is an excellent resource for people affected by cancer, as they now have a dedicated space within the Whittington Hospital where they can come and talk to us about their worries, concerns or questions.”

The centre is based at the entrance of the Whittington and is open weekdays from 10am-4pm. Anyone affected by cancer is welcome to drop in for a chat or to pick up some information.