Five things you didn't know about Oxo star Lynda Bellingham

Actress dies at 66 after saying she would stop her chemotherapy treatment for cancer

Lynda Bellingham picks up her OBE
(Image credit: 2014 AFP)

Lynda Bellingham has died at the age of 66, just weeks after revealing that she planned to stop her chemotherapy treatment for cancer.

The actress, who is best known for her Oxo television adverts in the 1980s and 1990s, has been battling colon cancer since July last year. After the cancer spread to her lungs and liver, she decided that she would stop taking chemotherapy in November with the hope of spending one last Christmas with her family. However, her agent has announced that she died "in her husband's arms" yesterday.

Bellingham's career has spanned four decades, from acting roles in the television show All Creatures Great and Small and the stage production of Calendar Girls to competing in Strictly Come Dancing and co-presenting Loose Women.

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Here are five things you might not know about the actress:

She was born Meredith Lee Hughes

Bellingham was born Meredith Lee Hughes in Montreal, Canada on 31 May 1948. "Her mother Marjorie gave birth to her out of wedlock, incensing her strict Jewish family who made her give up her daughter," says the BBC. She was adopted by a British couple, Donald and Ruth Bellingham, who brought her up in Buckinghamshire. Bellingham later tracked down her birth mother in Canada and the pair enjoyed regular phone calls. The actress revealed that she was distraught to only hear of her mother's death after the funeral had taken place in 2012.

She made her film debut in a sex-farce

Bellingham says that when she left drama school she "wasn't pretty enough to be a film star" but "wasn't ugly enough to be the complete Ugly Betty", so she was led down the comedy route. Her first film was Confessions of a Driving Instructor in 1976, one of a series of British sex-farces, described by the BBC as "far more explicit that the Carry On films". Bellingham says: "It showed I was quite versatile, but unfortunately, because it was the seventies and all tits and arse, you were only a butt for the jokes."

She suffered a violent marriage during the Oxo years

Bellingham was best known as the head of an idyllic family in the Oxo television adverts from 1983 to 1999. But she has described her real-life second marriage from 1981 to 1996 as violent. Her husband, Neapolitan restaurateur Nunzio Peluso, allegedly broke her nose just six weeks after their wedding day. She later married for a third time and described her new husband Michael Pattemore, a property developer, as the love of her life and marvelled at how lucky she was to "get another crack" at a relationship in her 60s.

She was awarded an OBE for her charity work

Bellingham received an Order of the British Empire (OBE) from Prince Charles in the 2014 New Year Honours for her charity work. The actress was an ambassador for the Alzheimer's Society for many years and regularly spoke out on behalf of people with dementia and their carers. Bellingham, whose sister Barbara died from lung cancer in 2008, was also a high-profile supporter of Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Support and other charities. She and her husband often attended charity events up and down the country to raise money.

She named her cancer FU2

Bellingham was diagnosed with cancer in July last year and promptly christened it "FU2" after the chemotherapy drugs fluorouracil, also known as FU2. The Daily Telegraph 's Elizabeth Grice, who held one of the last ever interviews with the actress, described it as a "piece of comic defiance that has characterised her whole approach to the disease". After writing a book on her decision to withdraw chemotherapy, Bellingham joked with Grice: "I know it's not ultimately my decision, but it is my last vestige of control over myself. I might not die, anyway. How embarrassing would that be? 'That Lynda Bellingham conned us into thinking she was dying so we would buy her book!'"

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