Janet Ellis opens up about her late husband who died of cancer

Janet Ellis opens up about her late husband who died of cancer


‘I had to wait 35 years to get a love letter’: Janet Ellis reveals late husband John Leach wrote emotional tribute to their marriage before his death from cancer – and asked that it was read aloud at his funeral

  • Janet Ellis, 66, opened up about the death of her husband John Leach last year 
  • John’s cancer of the tonsils turned to secondary cancer of the lungs in 2017
  • Janet said couple knew they would not grow old together, so lived in the ‘now’
  • Revealed John penned her a moving love letter to be read at memorial service

Janet Ellis has revealed she found the grief that followed after losing her husband John Leach to cancer ‘exhausting’.

The Blue Peter star, now 66, wed TV producer Leach in 1988 and the couple shared 35 years together before his death from lung cancer in 2020.  

The presenter and actress, who is the mother of pop singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor, told The Telegraph that the couple knew they would not grow old together and lived their last moments together ‘in the now.’ 

She also revealed that John, who she says, wasn’t into public display of affections, penned a loving speech before he died and requested that it was read at his memorial service. 

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Actress Janet Ellis, 66, told The Telegraph how her late husband John Leach, who died in 2020, penned her a beautiful love letter which was read out at his funeral. The couple pictured together in 2018

Addressing the speech, Janet joked that John never wrote her any love letters during their marriage, because it was not the sort of thing he did.  

‘I knew I was loved but that wasn’t who he was. And then a huge part of this speech he had written was the most wonderful love letter directed at me,’ she said. 

‘I had to wait 35 years and him dying to get a love letter, then it was a really big one, really big and public,’ she added. 

She said she missed the energy John and her would give each other – and says she is exhausted by grief and life on her own. 

The star admitted that she can deal with being on her own but minds not having her husband around anymore. 

The presenter, pictured in 2014, revealed that the couple knew they would not grow old together, but says they never discussed it, preferring to ‘live in the now’

Janet said the couple never talked about Leach dying after hearing his cancer was incurable in 2017. 

She said the couple understood they would not grow old together, but never discussed it, and that John wanted to live in the now and would shut her down when she mentioned the future. 

John, who shared two children with Janet, Jack, 34, and Martha, 30, was first diagnosed with cancer of the tonsils in 2016 after complaining of a sore throat. 

His chances of recovery were high, but the treatment was heavy, and he had to undergo radiotherapy and had his tonsils removed.  He was eventually given the all clear months later, however, the relief was short-lived. 

In November 2017, the producer was told he was not in fact clear of cancer and that a secondary cancer, this one incurable, had began to develop in his lungs.  

Pictured: Janet and John during the London Night Hike, a walk through London in aid of Maggie’s Centres Cancer Treatment Charity in association with Open House London in 2007

Janet, pictured in 1983, three years before she was introduced to John by friends. The pair married in 1988 

Secondary cancer: when illness spreads across the body 

A secondary cancer occurs when the same type of cancer cells move from the primary cancer to another location in the body. 

The cells are carried through the blood stream or the lymphatic system to another part of the body. 

Symptoms of the secondary cancer depend on the location it affects.   

Some types of secondary cancer are curable, however, the majority cannot be cured, and can only be managed. 

Treatment will depend on the type of cancer you have. Depending on the location of the cancer, it can be treated for years. 

Source: Macmillan Cancer Support

John underwent chemotherapy, and the couple bought a house in Sicily where they would retreat when he got breaks from treatment. 

The chemo was halted during the lockdown of Spring 2020, and Janet said the couple were lucky to be able to spend time just the two of them. 

She said she doesn’t believe stopping treatment made a big difference to  John’s life expectancy. 

The actress revealed the family were able to spend the day with John and say their goodbyes before he passed away. 

Ellis revealed she is grateful she could be with her husband when he died, when so many family had to be kept away from their loved ones because of Covid-19 restrictions.  

Janet, who lost her mother and her best-friend to cancer as well as John, is a keen supporter of Maggie’s, a support charity offering a wide range of advice, from well-being to financial support, to patients suffering of cancer and their loved ones. 

The centre was created by Maggie Keswick Jencks in the 1990s, after she was told her breast cancer had returned five years after her initial diagnosis. 

Janet said the charity helped her husband deal with his cancer, thanks to learning self-hypnosis daily to deal with the pain in the later stages of the illness. 

She admitted she would visit Maggie’s West London while managing her grief.  

Janet admitted she finds life without her husband difficult, but added she doesn’t mind being alone. Pictured in October at the special charity performance of “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical” in aid of Refuge at the Strand Palace Hotel

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