VERY few people knew of Harry Potter and Peaky Blinder star Helen McCrory's cancer battle, says a pal.
Carrie Cracknell, who directed the actress in a stage production of Medea, said those close to her "were sworn to secrecy".
What type of cancer did Helen McCrory have?
The type of cancer which sadly led to Helen McCrory's death has not as yet been revealed to the public.
Director Carrie Cracknell told BBC's Today show: "Helen wanted to be very private about her illness and I understand why. When you live in the public spotlight you have to find space to protect the things that are just for you.
"Very, very few people knew, and I only did because we were planning to transfer a show to Broadway, and we had to cancel that because she was undergoing treatment. We were sworn to secrecy.
"Her need to be fully alive and be committed and to take things incredibly seriously, such as her family and charity work, defined her last few years for her as much as ever."
Helen "faced up" to her cancer battle "with a level of bravery and humour that was completely extraordinary and was teaching people around her how to live. It was a very remarkable thing," the director added.
Carrie said her friend didn't want to highlight her illness as she was determined to concentrate on her career, while continuing to fundraise for hospital staff devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Caring Helen and her husband, actor Damian Lewis, who lived together in Suffolk, also helped feed frontline healthcare workers during the Covid pandemic.
They raised for more than £1million to help get hot meals delivered to hardworking staff with the help of powerhouses of the food industry.
Speaking about her charity work in March last year, Helen said: "Since we launched the campaign, we’ve received messages of appreciation for NHS workers from people across the country, which we’ve shared with them.
"For those working with infectious diseases, these messages of kindness and gratefulness – it’s about the safest hug you can give an ITU worker at the moment.
"It’s important for them to know, when they’re knackered, that they’re not alone and we’re thinking of them."
Brave Helen McCrory was still promoting her charity work for the NHS in the final weeks before her death, aged 52.
There was, however, a hint that something was amiss during a recent TV interview.
And Kate Garraway cottoned on to the fact that something wasn't quite right with the star during a chat on Good Morning Britain about six weeks ago.
At one point the presenter asked her: "Are you alright Helen? You sound a bit croaky, have you got a sore throat?"
The actress jokingly replied: "No, I’ve got children! Thank you for asking."
"You've been shouting at them!" Kate jokingly replied.
Footage of the interview shows Damian gazing lovingly at his wife in her final TV appearance before her death on April 16, 2021.
Homeland star Damian shared on Twitter: "I'm heartbroken to announce that after an heroic battle with cancer, the beautiful and mighty woman that is Helen McCrory has died peacefully at home, surrounded by a wave of love from friends and family.
"She died as she lived. Fearlessly. God we loved her and know how lucky we are to have had her in our lives. She blazed so brightly. Go now, Little One, into the air, and thank you."
When was Helen McCrory diagnosed with cancer?
It's not known when the star was diagnosed with cancer.
Tributes have poured in for Helen, including from Macmillan Cancer Support.
It tweeted on April 16: "We're deeply saddened to hear the news that Helen McCrory has died of cancer.
"Helen and her husband Damian Lewis have kindly supported Macmillan over the years.
"We would like to send our condolences to her family and loved ones this evening."
Helen's fans expressed shock at her passing, with one tweeting: "Brave lady and so sad for her family to lose her at such a young age."
Another lamented: "So very sad; she was a fabulous actress and gone too young."
And fan Nicola Duckett added on Twitter: "This is absolutely awful news. I had a lot of admiration for this beautiful lady. Sick of this horrible disease."
When did Helen McCrory die?
The star's husband, actor Damian Lewis, announced she had died "peacefully at home, surrounded by a wave of love from friends and family" on April 16, 2021.
She began her career in theatre where she was praised for her roles in Trelawny of the 'Wells' and Uncle Vanya.
Helen then appeared in a string of films – including Interview with the Vampire in 1994 and The Queen in 2006 where she played Cherie Blair.
The star was cast as Bellatrix Lestrange in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix but was forced to pull out due her to pregnancy.
After being replaced by Helena Bonham Carter, Helen returned as Bellatrix's sister Narcissa Malfoy in the Half Blood Prince.
She also starred in the final two films in the franchise.
In 2013, Helen took on the gritty role of Polly Gray in the hit show Peaky Blinders as the domineering matriarch of the family.
Her character is the aunt of the Shelby brothers and the unofficial head of the family.
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