Caron Keating conquers mystery illness

by LIZ SANDERSON, Mail on Sunday

Television presenter Caron Keating has spent the past two years battling a secret and potentially life-threatening illness, it can be revealed.

Her condition was so serious she quit London life and moved to Cornwall with her husband and children in the hope it would help her survive.

Now she appears to have made a full recovery and is relaunching her career with a £2million ITV show called Rich And Famous.

She is keen to reinstate herself in the public eye although she has declined to tell fans which illness took her out of it. When she left her last show, We Can Work It Out, two years ago, it was assumed the bubbly 39-year-old daughter of Gloria Hunniford was taking a break from showbusiness to concentrate on motherhood. Then there were rumours of emotional instability and burn-out.

Yet Caron had not grown tired of life . . . far from it. In fact the presenter whose skills have taken her from Blue Peter to heavyweight documentaries and entertainment shows for Channel 4, ITV and the BBC was undergoing arduous treatment at a private London hospital.

And as part of her fightback, Caron and her devoted husband, Russ Lindsay, retreated from the showbusiness world, sold their London home and moved to the small coastal town of Fowey 18 months ago with their sons, Charlie, seven, and four-year-old Gabriel.

Since then she has been desperately sick, but has now slowly regained her health and strength through a combination of conventional and alternative medicine, of which she is an advocate.

Until now, her illness has been a secret to all but a close circle of family and friends. But last week, Russ, a showbusiness agent, confirmed that Caron had been seriously ill.

'We're so grateful that everyone has respected our privacy, but it's not my place to comment in detail and Caron doesn't want to talk about it. We've moved to Cornwall to get away from everything and because my wife needed to rest. It's the ideal place. We have a very relaxing lifestyle - beneficial and healthy to all of us.'

While battling the illness, the pair enrolled their sons in the local school and tried hard to involve themselves in the community. Russ spearheaded a campaign to stop mobile phone company Orange building a mast near the town's primary school and Caron attended a number of events in the town.

But locals were shocked at the star's appearance. Her skin was a deathly grey, she seemed frail and her hair, which had been thick and glossy, looked permanently lank and straggly.

One local, who met her at a fete after the couple moved in, said: 'I'd seen her on television and although she was prettier in the flesh than I thought she'd be, she seemed almost emaciated. She looked ill but I didn't know there was anything wrong. I just thought it was because she'd lost too much weight and that it was one of those fashion things.'

The couple embraced an alternative lifestyle. In the grounds of their £500,000 mansion overlooking the sea they have a farm where they grow organic crops and keep a few animals.

They have reclaimed an over-grown path which leads down to Readymoney Cove, where Daphne du Maurier once lived, and twice a day Caron goes for long walks on the beach with her dogs.

She has also been helped enormously by the spiritual healer she began seeing after her father, Don Keating, to whom she was particularly close, died.

'She talked to me about my emotional, physical and spiritual lives being out of kilter,' she has said. 'She grounded me again. Very gently, she gave me the helping hand I needed. I still see her every few weeks and she balances me.'

Caron also embraced a number of alternative treatments. She and Russ went to Australia in January on a six-week 'healing trip' and in late spring she retired to the h i l l s o f Tuscany for further recuperation.

The couple are delighted to have been embraced by the local community. One man from the town, who didn't want to be named, said: 'She came down here to escape the pressures and we respect that. If she has found some peace of mind and it has helped her get better, we'll do all we can to make sure that climate prevails.'

The lifestyle seems to have helped Caron achieve a remarkable recovery. She has put on more than two stones, her cheeks are rosy from the country air and she glows with good health.

Recently she threw a 40th birthday party for Russ at the Fowey hotel. One guest revealed: 'Caron was in great form and presented Russ with a new Harley Davidson motor-bike. It was a thank you for the way he has looked after her. He has been absolutely incredible - a real tower of strength. And Caron looked magnificent. She's very brave.'

The TV presenter was last seen in the town last weekend. She opened a fete at the local hospital and attended the

Golant Carnival in a neighbouring village.

One carnival-goer said: 'She looked well and she joined in the dancing with everyone else when the band played the Floral Dance.'

At last, it seems the dark days of the past 18 months are over.

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