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The Princess of Wales is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

With the clang of bells from Big Ben, the United Kingdom got some sobering news tonight.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The Princess of Wales reveals that she's being treated for cancer.

CHANG: Kensington Palace has released a video of Catherine describing how she was diagnosed after abdominal surgery in January and how she's now undergoing chemotherapy. This comes amid lots of speculation in recent weeks about the princess' whereabouts and a photoshopped picture of her and her children. Covering all of this from London is NPR's Lauren Frayer. Hi, Lauren.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Hi. Good evening.

CHANG: Good evening. OK, so tell us more about this video announcement. What was it like?

FRAYER: Yeah. The video was released to TV networks and on social media. And you can see Kate sitting on a garden bench with yellow flowers behind her. She's dressed casually in a striped shirt. She looks directly into the camera, and she describes how she underwent abdominal surgery back in January.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CATHERINE: The surgery was successful. However, tests after the operation found cancer had been present. My medical team therefore advised that I should undergo a course of preventative chemotherapy, and I'm now in the early stages of that treatment.

FRAYER: Now, note she says preventative chemotherapy...

CHANG: Yeah.

FRAYER: ...And that the cancer had been present.

CHANG: Right.

FRAYER: A Kensington Palace spokesperson says she began that treatment in late February and says she is, quote, "on the recovery pathway."

CHANG: OK. That sounds hopeful, but is the palace giving any more detail? Like, what kind of cancer are we talking about and what stage?

FRAYER: No, we don't know any of that. The palace is asking that we respect her medical privacy, and so we have no idea what type of cancer this is, nor what stage, nor where she's getting this chemotherapy, how long it'll last - nothing about, for example, whether she'll lose her hair or any other details. In her video, the princess did talk pretty frankly about how she's feeling about this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CATHERINE: This, of course, came as a huge shock, and William and I have been doing everything we can to process and manage this privately for the sake of our young family.

FRAYER: You know, they have three children. The youngest is 5 years old. And remember; the king is also undergoing cancer treatment, too.

CHANG: Yeah.

FRAYER: The palace hasn't released his type of cancer or stage, either. It did actually just issue a statement from the king though, saying he's, quote, "so proud of Catherine for her courage in speaking as she did," referring to, you know, her revealing this diagnosis. The statement says the king is in close contact with Kate and calls her his beloved daughter-in-law.

CHANG: Well, it is - I mean, it's quite late there. This news is just coming out, but have you been able to get a sense of how people in the U.K. are reacting right now?

FRAYER: Yeah. So our producer Fatima Al-Kassab is actually out on the streets of Brighton on England's south coast this evening. And she's been gathering reaction. Here's the voice of one of the people she spoke with.

HERMIONE BORREN: Obviously it's really sad and awful. Like, it's really hard for anyone to go through cancer.

FRAYER: This is a woman named Hermione Borren (ph). She says she feels horrible for Kate and all the scrutiny she's been under. You know, you'll recall there was this frenzy over this photo that the palace put out of Kate and her children, which had been photoshopped. There's been all this speculation about Kate's whereabouts, her appearance, even about her marriage. And so now there's this realization that all the while, the princess has been dealing with something pretty serious. And so there's some shame being felt here.

BORREN: I think the media, when it comes to, like, celebrity culture, treat people like they're not humans. And it's really awful to see that. And, yeah, I hope that they give people a bit more space and privacy.

FRAYER: And there's some real concern here, you know, for Kate for her privacy but also for her health.

CHANG: Absolutely. And there is, of course, as you mentioned, the magnitude of, you know, the royal family absorbing and handling all of this on top of the king's own illness.

FRAYER: Absolutely. I mean, Queen Elizabeth just died about 18 months ago. Now her son, the new king, and his daughter-in-law both have cancer. There's a lot of concern for William, the heir to the throne, how he's processing this - you know, his father and his wife getting treatment simultaneously, like, how to share this, how much to share of this with their children. So messages of sadness and support are just flowing into London tonight from the White House, from 10 Downing Street, from celebrities, really from around the world.

CHANG: That is NPR's Lauren Frayer in London. Thank you so much, Lauren.

FRAYER: You're welcome. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.
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